Baltimore mayoral hopefuls to meet tonight in first debate of campaign


Baltimore mayoral candidates will meet tonight in a public forum at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the first of at least four debates to be held before the Nov. 2 general election.

But Republican mayoral contender David F. Tufaro is complaining that his Democratic opponent, City Councilman Martin O'Malley, is backing out of neighborhood forums in which the two had been scheduled to meet.

Though O'Malley has agreed to the four joint appearances, he has declined to join Tufaro in six other forums sponsored by neighborhood organizations, Tufaro said.

"This is clearly a strategic position on his part to back away," Tufaro said. "O'Malley has clearly been wiggling his way out of public forums."

O'Malley is considered the heavy favorite in the city election. Democrats outnumber Republican voters in Baltimore by 9 to 1. He calls his opponent's complaints a political move aimed at drumming up interest in the Tufaro campaign.

O'Malley contends that the four forums, which are to include one television event and two radio debates, will give voters ample opportunity to see the differences between the candidates.

The other debate would be a nonbroadcast event sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The candidates have not settled on a date for that forum.

"No matter how much you debate him, they're going to say you didn't debate enough," O'Malley said.

West Baltimore community activist Betty Newcomb had scheduled a mayoral forum last night at Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church in the 4600 block of Edmondson Ave. She said Tufaro spoke alone at the event, which O'Malley declined to attend.

Other events that O'Malley turned down included debates sponsored by the University of Maryland Law School Literary Debate Society, Health Care for the Homeless, the Black-Jewish Mayoral Forum and the University of Baltimore. "His staff people said forums were way down on his priority list," Newcomb said. "They said he needed to spend the time so he can hit the road running if he wins."

Last night, the two candidates met at a forum before the Ashburton Area Association.

O'Malley and Tufaro will meet today from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pratt library, an event that will be broadcast over the Internet on http: //

The two will debate again Oct. 27 on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). That event will be taped and aired at a later date.

O'Malley and Tufaro were scheduled to debate this morning on Larry Young's talk show on WOLB-AM 1010. O'Malley, a defense attorney, rescheduled the debate to Oct. 28 because of a conflict in his court schedule, he said.

Pub Date: 10/13/99

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