As Baltimore's election board asked for a speedy court hearing to determine whether Democratic nominee Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. qualifies to be a 4th District City Councilman, members of his politically prominent family criticized the action as an unwarranted attack on his candidacy.
Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III said yesterday that he wanted the Baltimore Circuit Court to determine whether Mr. Mitchell met a residency requirement of the City Charter before members of the new City Council take office next month.
"We'd like to do it all in the next month," Mr. Tyler said shortly after the court papers were filed.
Wednesday night, the election board voted unanimously after a two-hour hearing to ask the courts to decide whether Mr. Mitchell lived in his center-city district for a year before Tuesday's general election, as the charter requires.
Election board records show that Mr. Mitchell was registered to vote at his parents' home in Guilford in the 2nd Councilmanic District, outside the center-city district, until February. But Mr. Mitchell and several witnesses at Wednesday's hearing said he had been living in an apartment above his father's medical office at 1230 Druid Hill Ave. since he graduated from law school in June 1994.
Mr. Mitchell's name still will appear on Tuesday's ballot as one of three 4th District Democratic nominees. Because three council members are elected from each district and there are no Republican nominees, he is assured of being elected. But if the court finds he has not met the residency requirement, it could refuse to allow him to take his seat -- leaving the council to fill the vacancy.
Yesterday, state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Baltimore Democrat and Keiffer Mitchell's cousin, lambasted the election board's action.
"We see this as a frontal assault on the candidacy of Keiffer Jackson Mitchell Jr.," he said.
"It smacks of a different era. It's Orwellian, almost," added former state Sen. Michael B. Mitchell, Keiffer Mitchell's uncle.
Keiffer Mitchell declined to comment on the election board's action on the advice of his attorney, Larry S. Gibson.
But while the board was deliberating Wednesday night, Mr. Mitchell, 28, said he believed the questions raised about his residency were "politically motivated."
"If you're a Mitchell, you always have more enemies," he said.
"I have done nothing wrong. For someone to tell me I don't live where I live is outrageous and insulting," he said.
But in yesterday's court filing, Mr. Tyler said, "There is a serious question as to whether, in fact, Mr. Mitchell satisfies the residency requirement of the City Charter."