After staying out of Democratic-dominated city politics for decades, the state Republican Party last week bombarded voters with campaign literature that challenges them to "Send Kurt Schmoke a message he'll never forget."
The harshly worded campaign brochure asks Democrats to vote for the Republican candidates in Tuesday's general election, including Victor Clark Jr. for mayor, Anthony D. Cobb for City Council president and Christopher P. McShane for comptroller.
"In Kurt Schmoke's Baltimore, 12-year-olds are having babies," the brochure says. "15-year-olds are killing each other. 17-year-olds are dying of AIDs. And 18-year-olds are receiving diplomas they can't read.
"This November 7 you can vote for the Kurt Schmoke status quo ticket or you can vote for change."
The state Republican Party sent brochures to 19,000 Democratic households and to 8,000 Republican homes, said Christopher R. West, executive director of party.
In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-to-1, state Republican Party chairwoman Joyce Lyons Terhes said, "This is the most the party's ever done in Baltimore City as far back as I remember."
No Republican has been mayor of Baltimore since Theodore R. McKeldin left office in 1967. The last Republican City Council member was Daniel Ellison, who left office 53 years ago.
The brochure directly attacks the Schmoke administration by saying that under a Republican agenda, "No more political cronies will be put in charge of the city's economic development agencies."
It also says Republicans would run the city's $100 million federally funded empowerment zone in a way that would "minimize the money poured into the pockets of outside lawyers and consultants."
The comments refer to Honora M. Freeman, the former head of the Baltimore Development Corp. Ms. Freeman came from Shapiro and Olander, the law firm of Ron Shapiro, Mr. Schmoke's campaign treasurer, and Larry S. Gibson, the mayor's campaign chairman.
The Shapiro and Olander firm also is the legal counsel to the empowerment zone.
Mr. Schmoke said he had seen the Republican brochure.
"It's clearly not something I would send to my mother," he said yesterday. "It's a gross distortion of our record over the last 12 years. I doubt if it will move many Democrats to switch to the Republican Party."
FTC The mailing to Democrats includes a letter asking them to change their party affiliation by Dec. 11 so they can vote in the March Republican presidential primary. It is accompanied by blank forms to be sent to the Board of Elections so Democrats can change parties.
Mr. West said his office in Annapolis has received dozens of phone calls from Democrats wanting more blank forms for changing party affiliations.
"Our goal this year is to transform Maryland into a two-party state -- in Baltimore City as well," he said.
His party's decision to invade Baltimore was prompted by a number of viable Republican candidates for city office this year, including Joseph Brown Jr., who is running a strong campaign for City Council in the 6th District.
The literature was mailed to areas where people voted for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey -- who lost her bid for governor last year -- and to people who supported City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who lost the Democratic mayoral nomination to Mr. Schmoke in September.
Mr. Cobb called the mailing "a lift" to his campaign for City Council president. He said he has heard from several Democrats.
"We've had a number of people come up to us at community organizations and sigh and say, 'You know, I'm just about ready to change over,' " he said.
The brochure promotes several other items on the Republican agenda, including a push to assign at least 200 officers to community policing and a pledge to offer the private school curriculum from the Calvert School -- now being taught at public Barclay Elementary School -- "to every elementary school in Baltimore."