Waiting for other shoe to drop in council race


THOSE PLUCKY Republicans keep campaigning on, refusing to knuckle under to the prevailing wisdom that says Democrats are a lock to win all citywide and councilmanic offices come Election Day, Nov. 2.

Tony Campbell, the Republican running for City Council president against Sheila "Shoe of Vengeance" Dixon, believes he has a legitimate shot at winning the race.

"It depends on if we can let people know exactly what she's done over the last 12 years," Campbell said yesterday. "If we're able to put that message out the last 10 days [of the race], we'll beat her. If we can swing 10,000 Democrats, we'll do it."

What Dixon has done, according to Campbell, is toe the Kurt Schmoke line as a member of the council's 4th District.

"She's been a follower the last 12 years," Campbell said. "She's even showing signs of it in this campaign." Campbell feels that Dixon is toeing the Martin O'Malley line on zero tolerance.

Those of you who thought the race for City Council president was going to be dull had better think again. Campbell is the underdog, from Beaver Falls, Pa. It was 30 years ago that another underdog from Beaver Falls -- New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath -- led his team to an upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Now Campbell is in Baltimore, looking to upset the Democrat Dixon. He came here in 1986, fresh from working intelligence in the Army. He spends his days teaching music at four church-based schools. The rest of the time, he's politicking.

He ran as a Republican for the 7th District congressional seat in 1998. In 1995, he traveled across the country for six months with a group of folks looking to draft retired Gen. Colin Powell for a presidential bid. He has worked with lawmakers in Annapolis and Washington. He dismisses Dixon's claim that he has no political experience.

"I understand the legislative process," Campbell said, in spectacles and T.W.A. (teeny-weeny Afro). "I don't need to go to a City Council meeting and watch her hit her shoe on the table to understand the legislative process."

That jibe is a reference to Dixon's taunting of her white colleagues years ago. During the rancorous council debates that often revolved around racial issues, Dixon, in a hearing on redistricting, took off her shoe, rapped it on a table and told white council members that the shoe of political power was now on a black foot, not a white one. Dixon, in Michael Olesker's column this week, expressed regret about the incident.

"The thing that happened with the shoe incident -- that hasn't gone away," Campbell said. He believes that the incident indicates one of the major differences between him and his opponent.

"When you govern, you govern for everybody," Campbell said. "You're supposed to leave your personal likes and dislikes at the door."

That's a doctrine of governing that Campbell took with him to a gay and lesbian festival, where he did some campaigning.

"They were shocked to see a Republican candidate," Campbell recalled. "But my job as a public servant [if elected] is to take care of everybody. I don't care what you do in your bedroom." Campbell said his personal feelings about homosexuality have no place in public policy.

Those Baltimoreans genuinely tired of 32 years of Democratic misrule should look at all the candidates closely. Voters might disagree with Campbell about Dixon's being little more than a Schmoke toady for the past 12 years. Others might say the shoe incident is behind her. But there is one thing Dixon is clearly guilty of. It's a crime that also applies to O'Malley.

They're both Democrats. Whatever else Dixon has done, she can't deny having been a Democrat for the past 12 years. Nor can O'Malley. And, it bears repeating, the city has gone down under Democratic leadership. A vote that puts Democrats in power again Nov. 2 is one that says you want more of the same. Does that mean you have to vote Republican? Of course not. Just vote for anyone but the Democrats, if for no other reason than to show them they don't have a monopoly on power.

But Campbell has a pragmatic reason for trying to join the council. "I believe the next [U.S.] president is going to be a Republican," he said. "I believe it would be good for Baltimore to have someone who is friendly with the administration."

And Campbell promises that as City Council president, he'll keep both his shoes on.

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