Vastly outnumbered but unwilling to allow their rival Democrats an uncontested ride into City Hall, Baltimore Republicans nominated developer and community activist David F. Tufaro yesterday as their candidate for mayor.
Tufaro, a first-time candidate for elected office who nonetheless gained the support of the city's GOP establishment, won the nomination with 53 percent of the vote. He defeated five other candidates, including teacher and former businessman Carl M. Adair, who ran second with 25 percent of the vote.
Tufaro earned the dubious honor of running a general election race against a Democratic opponent who is virtually certain to be better financed -- in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 9-1 and no Republican has been elected mayor in three decades.
"I certainly can't say I'm optimistic about winning [the general election]. I can say there are enough reasons to think it's possible to win this election," Tufaro said yesterday, while campaigning outside the polls at Southwest Baltimore's Beechfield Elementary School.
After the votes were counted last night, he said he would distinguish his campaign from Democratic nominee Martin O'Malley by stressing a call for a large reduction in city property tax rates. He said he would also try to woo disgruntled Democrats.
"It's a little bit of a David and Goliath," he said, adding, "David won, as I remember."
In the only other contested race in the Republican primary, 41-year-old bank executive Joseph Brown Jr. won the party's nomination for one of three City Council seats in Baltimore's 6th District.
Brown received 405 votes. He ran an aggressive but unsuccessful general election race for City Council in 1995.
He and 1st District Republican candidate Robert N. Santoni Sr. are considered by GOP leaders to have the best chance of breaking the party's long losing streak in City Council elections. A Republican was last elected to City Council in 1939.
The other Republican candidates in the 6th District are: Joe Tebo Jr., a safety specialist for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., who received 288 votes; Anthony F. Forlenza, a retired postal worker, with 278 votes; and Walter F. Green, a retired police officer, with 260 votes. Absentee ballots, which could change the outcome, had not been counted late last night.
Republican candidates in Baltimore's other five councilmanic districts advanced to the Nov. 2 general election in uncontested races yesterday. Similarly, Antonio Wade Campbell, the Republican candidate for City Council president, and Charles U. Smith, the party's candidate for comptroller, faced no primary opposition.
Republicans stationed themselves outside Baltimore polling places yesterday, albeit in much smaller numbers than the Democrats. Some were looking past the primary and toward the general election, hoping that their party could break the hold that Democrats have had on city elected offices.
Handing out Republican literature outside Violetville Elementary School, council candidate Forlenza said: "It's like they could be elected every time if they were Attila the Hun. They don't have to be good. They just have to be Democrats. This has got to change."
As votes were tallied last night in the contested races, Tufaro and many Baltimore Republicans gathered at Lista's restaurant in Fells Point. Adair, 65, monitored the results from the law offices of his campaign manager, former perennial Republican candidate Samuel A. Culotta. He conceded defeat shortly before 10 p.m.
"I knew that I had a struggle," Adair said. He said that Tufaro faces a daunting challenge in the general election, adding: "More power to Mr. Tufaro. I wouldn't want to have to face it."
Tufaro, 52, said that he would try to raise at least $100,000 and run a spirited general election campaign, starting today. He said he would meet with state Republican officials to plot strategy -- including efforts to persuade local media to seriously cover the general election campaign.
He provided a taste of the likely themes of his general election campaign: That the Democrats are controlled by campaign contributors and special interests.
"Really having your hands tied before you're elected -- that's an issue that's going to be important to voters," he said.
In 1995, Republican mayoral nominee Victor Clark Jr. gathered barely 20 percent of the vote in the general election race against Democratic incumbent Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. In both of the two prior mayoral elections, Republican nominee Culotta received less than 28 percent of the vote.
Pub Date: 9/15/99