Incumbent John L. Cain won the 1st District Democratic nomination for City Council by eight votes yesterday over newcomer Charles Krysiak, after a campaign in which businessmen tried to unseat Mr. Cain for opposing development on the Southeast Baltimore waterfront.
Mr. Cain, first elected in 1991, won after absentee ballots were counted. He had 7,565 votes to Mr. Krysiak's 7,557. In Tuesday's balloting, Mr. Krysiak had been ahead of Mr. Cain by 57 votes.
Three days before the election, voters received postcards, paid for by three local developers, that criticized Mr. Cain's attendance at City Council hearings.
"If it weren't for the dirty tricks postcard, this contest wouldn't be in question," Mr. Cain said.
The vote counts for all city races won't be official until Friday when the Board of Elections certifies the vote count, said Barbara E. Jackson, city election administrator.
After the absentee votes were counted yesterday afternoon, supporters of Mr. Cain and Mr. Krysiak continued to review the tabulation.
State Del. Carolyn J. Krysiak, the candidate's mother, said there would be no recount. Mr. Krysiak was not available for comment.
Mr. Krysiak had one of the better-organized campaigns in the district. He raised nearly $30,000 and ran an extensive door-to-door campaign. His father, Charles J. Krysiak, was in the House of Delegates from 1966 to 1979. Mrs. Krysiak is in the first year of her second term as a delegate from the 46th Legislative District.
This summer, local business leaders and developers mounted a campaign to unseat Mr. Cain, who has been a vocal opponent of waterfront development -- especially of proposals to build large, waterfront bars, called mega-bars.
Using the name "Citizens for Responsive Government," the group sent campaign literature to voters Saturday, stating that Mr. Cain "was absent for 72 percent of the bill hearings in his committees."
"On September 12, do not cast a vote for John Cain . . . ," the flier said. "He doesn't show up for work."
Mr. Cain said yesterday he did not know what his attendance rate was for committee hearings.
"No one goes to those hearings and committee meetings, just the council members who are the committee heads," Mr. Cain said.
"To me, that postcard was a deliberate attempt to assassinate my character and impugn my work ethic in the council."
Citizens for Responsive Government is financed by three wealthy owners of waterfront property, according to Board of Election records. They are: Edwin Hale, owner of Hale Intermodal Transport in Canton; John Paterakis, owner of H&S; Bakery in Fells Point; and Dr. Selvin Passen, a physician who is developing land in Canton. Each gave $1,050 to Citizens for Responsive Government.
The only other contribution to the committee was for $50 from commercial real estate salesman Todd Mekulski, chairman of the group.
Mr. Hale said he wanted Mr. Cain out of office because of the councilman's opposition to a liquor license for a proposed restaurant-bar on a 420-foot pier that Mr. Hale owns at 1820 S. Clinton St., across the street from his transport company.
"I don't like the fact that an elected official can change the rules of the game after I've invested in this property," Mr. Hale said. "I've got $15 million invested."
In March, the liquor board denied a license for the pier after hearing opposition from Mr. Cain, city officials and several nearby property owners. However, the developers still are pursuing their plans to build an open-air restaurant bar -- with palm trees and an artificial beach.
Mr. Paterakis and Dr. Passen did not return calls for comment.
Mr. Mekulski said: "I want to see development down there. I don't think [Mr. Cain] helps it."
State Sen. John A. Pica Jr. said he gave the group the name of a law student to research Mr. Cain's attendance record.
Mr. Cain angered Mr. Pica this spring when the councilman announced he would form a "Dump Pica Committee" to get the senator ousted as head of the city delegation.
Mr. Cain blamed Mr. Pica, whose district does not include Southeast Baltimore, for leading the city Senate delegation to persuade Gov. Parris N. Glendening to veto the mega-bar bill. The bill would have banned a new liquor license for any bar with a capacity of more than 150 people in an area from Little Italy to Canton.
Yesterday, Mr. Pica said the effort to unseat Mr. Cain was "connected to John Cain and his tactics and his political personality. . . . This has nothing to do with mega-bars."