Fliers mailed by mayoral campaigns to city voters prompted complaints yesterday -- less than 72 hours before the polls are to open in Baltimore's municipal primary election -- over what some considered racial overtones.
Anthony McCarthy, editor of the Afro-American newspaper, criticized candidate Martin J. O'Malley for one of the mailings. He said O'Malley's literature falsely implied that O'Malley had picked up the historic black newspaper's endorsement.
On a page listing endorsements from people such as Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the mailing included excerpts from a June Afro-American editorial that called O'Malley one of the city's most "conscientious elected officials."
McCarthy said the newspaper published the remarks but that the placement of them in the mailing made the statement look like an endorsement.
The Afro-American endorsed former City Councilman Carl Stokes, not O'Malley.
"We want people to know we find this piece misleading, and we are very disappointed," said McCarthy, who said he decided to hold a news conference after receiving numerous calls from readers.
O'Malley apologized, saying he did not intend for the excerpts to look like an endorsement.
"That particular quote has been running for nine weeks on radio, and this is the first time I've heard any problems with it," O'Malley said.
"I respect their sensitivity to it, and we didn't mean to make it look like an endorsement."
Hal Riedl of Northeast Baltimore was upset about a flier sent to his wife by the Stokes campaign.
The pamphlet included side-by-side pictures of O'Malley and Stokes, who was listed as Baltimore's "authentic son," and said "only one man knows our struggles."
"They're reminding people that Carl is black and O'Malley is white," said Riedl, who is white and whose wife is black. "This is really unworthy of Carl Stokes."
Stokes spokeswoman Kelley Ray said the mailing was to highlight Stokes as the only Baltimore native in the race.
"What they're reminding people is that Carl is a native son," Ray said.
"We're clearly stating that Carl was born here and raised here, and Martin was not."
Stokes also mailed literature critical of the zero-tolerance crime-fighting strategy that O'Malley and candidate Lawrence A. Bell III support.
The flier has a picture of the Los Angeles police's beating of Rodney King, and pictures of Bell and O'Malley.
The objections came as candidates crisscrossed the city trying to grab the attention of undecided voters. Stokes visited the Caribbean Festival in the afternoon, and O'Malley conducted a trolley tour.
The tour's final stop was the Ashburton home of 101-year-old Mark Powell, who was holding a barbecue that he called "a rally for O'Malley in my alley."
The former manager of the Cherrydale Apartments, Powell said he has voted since 1920.
"I think we're going to get things back on track," Powell said, munching on crabs and corn on the cob. "O'Malley seems to have stuck to the issues, and he hasn't gone after any of the other candidates."
Bell was joined by about 200 supporters for an afternoon rally at The Palladium at 2900 Liberty Heights Ave.
In a flier, Bell notes his 12 years of City Council service and reminded voters of his upset victories in 1987 and 1995, when he was elected council president.
"When all is said and done, and you've done your best and you've done what is right, God is going to be with you," Bell told the crowd.