Mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley will pick up the endorsement today of the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, the influential pastor of the city's largest black church, Bethel AME in West Baltimore.
Three sources knowledgeable about the endorsement said last night that Reid would make the announcement at 11: 30 a.m. outside the 213-year-old church at 1300 Druid Hill Ave.
The backing of Reid is expected to be a critical boost to the O'Malley campaign as the candidates head into the final week before the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.
At 8 tonight, the three leading candidates will take part in a debate on WMAR-TV, Channel 2. The televised debate is sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the city's Neighborhood Congress. Thirteen other candidates are in the race.
During the event at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Reid and William Donald Schaefer, Maryland's comptroller and former governor, were to endorse West Baltimore Councilwoman Sheila Dixon for City Council president. Schaefer, who served as mayor of Baltimore for 15 years, endorsed O'Malley two weeks ago.
Dixon, who worships at Bethel, is in a tough battle with six other Democratic candidates -- including city Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway and former state Sen. Nathan C. Irby Jr. -- for council president.
The endorsements from Reid -- who represents a congregation of 14,000 and plans to build a new church on 256 acres near Owings Mills -- could weigh heavily on the two races.
The backing would be the third major African-American endorsement for O'Malley, the leading white candidate in the race to lead a majority-black city. Sixty percent of the registered voters in Baltimore are African-American.
Last month, O'Malley received the backing of Del. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who are black. Baltimore receives one of every four dollars of its annual $1.8 billion budget from the state. Sources said Rawlings, who led a failed attempt to draft NAACP President Kweisi Mfume as a mayoral candidate, will endorse Dixon today.
O'Malley also has gained the support of one of the city's largest black labor unions, the Service Employees International Union, made up primarily of hospital workers.
Reid's endorsement goes against an earlier announcement backing Stokes by the city's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a network of 200 mostly African- American ministers.
Reid, the brother-in-law of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, could not be reached for comment last night. The mayor, who will step down in December after a 12-year term, said he was unaware of the expected endorsement of O'Malley.
Schmoke's successor as Baltimore's 47th mayor will take office in December saddled with a projected $153 million deficit over the next four years as spending exceeds income because of a leveling off of property taxes as families leave the city.
At a televised debate on WBAL-TV, Channel 11 a week ago, each candidate was asked how he would deal with the deficit.
Stokes said he would support "downsizing" the city work force, while Bell said he favors attrition through an offer of early retirement.
O'Malley, chairman of the council's Taxation and Finance Committee, said the key to shoring up the city budget is to reduce the exodus of 1,000 residents a month by making the city safer and attracting families to bolster the tax base. O'Malley defended his support of about $75 million in tax breaks to two new downtown hotels, saying the projects will generate about $6.6 million a year in taxes.
On the ballot next week is a question that asks voters if they want to extend a mayoral term from four years to five.
"It means an extra year of either good government or bad government, depending on who is elected," Rawlings said recently. "If the wrong person is elected, it just prolongs the agony."
Pub Date: 9/08/99