Five days after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced that he would not seek a fourth term in office, a growing field of candidates is clamoring to fill his job.
School board member Carl Stokes and former City Council candidate A. Robert Kaufman plan to announce their candidacies today. That brings the number of candidates in the race so far to three, after city Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway said Friday -- as she was being sworn in -- that she was entering the mayor's race.
In addition, a half dozen others have said they are considering a run for the city's top post, including City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, and state Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The floodgates opened over the weekend when NAACP President Kweisi Mfume backed away from the mayor's race. Mfume said Thursday that he would decide in February whether to run, but two days later he said at a news conference that he would not seek election next year because he had work to do at the NAACP.
Many political observers viewed Mfume as the front-runner for mayor and a difficult opponent to beat, if he pursued the job.
Mfume's candidacy also would have dealt a blow to Bell, his cousin. Bell, 37, whose name recognition as City Council president appears to have placed him among the leading mayoral candidates, has long desired the mayor's job but would likely have been forced out of the race if his cousin had sought the post.
Bell is expected to make an announcement soon about his political plans.
Three candidates are kicking off their campaigns.
Conaway, a Democrat whose husband, Frank Conaway, is clerk of the Baltimore Circuit Court, said she is looking for new challenges in her political career.
"I've been the register of wills for 16 years," said the 55-year-old Conaway. "I have some aspirations. Those aspirations are to be mayor of Baltimore."
Conaway said in a prepard statement that she had "become older and wiser and ready to accept more responsibility." She said she considered running for mayor even before Schmoke decided he would not seek another term, and is developing the specifics of her platform as a mayoral candidate.
A perennial political candidate, Kaufman is expected to announce his bid for mayor at 10 a.m. today at Mondawmin Mall in Northwest Baltimore. The 67-year-old civic activist from Walbrook Junction has run unsuccessfully for Congress, governor, president and most recently, for a 4th District City Council seat in 1995.
Kaufman, who is running as a Democrat, marched for civil rights in the 1960s and then became involved in a variety of grass-roots campaigns.
His chief fight as the head of the City-Wide Coalition has been to lower auto insurance rates for city residents.
In commenting on his mayoral bid, Kaufman said he would push for a federal jobs program and the legalization of drugs to reduce city violence. "The dealers would have nothing to deal and they would have no reason to shoot each other," he said.
A city councilman from 1987 to 1995, Stokes is expected to declare his candidacy at 11 a.m. today at City Hall. Stokes, also a Democrat, was appointed to the city school board in 1997, but he submitted his resignation last week to run for mayor.
Stokes' last two runs for public office ended in defeat. In 1994, he lost to Nathaniel McFadden in a race for state Senate. A year later, Bell defeated Stokes in a race for City Council president.
Stokes said he wants to improve dilapidated Baltimore schools, possibly using such city resources as the Department of Public Works and the housing department to restore the buildings and save money, instead of paying private contractors. He also wants to target open-air drug markets and reduce housing blight.
"I kept hearing over and over again that people were not happy with the state of life in Baltimore City," Stokes said.
The quality of life is likely to become a recurring theme as the field of mayoral candidates grows. And the competition is likely to become fierce.
In announcing that he would not run again, Schmoke said that he expected "a little bit of chaos. But it'll settle down. What will happen is there will be a few people who will emerge later in the spring as very strong contenders. I believe it will be very competitive."
Pub Date: 12/08/98