Incumbents in the 40th Legislative District face a crowded but modestly funded field of Democratic challengers who say shoe leather and fresh ideas will make up for what they lack in cash.
With nearly $566,000 raised since the last election, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings has felt secure enough to spend considerable time and money on other races.
In the past month, Rawlings has given $60,000 of his campaign funds to the Future of Baltimore Committee slate, which has, in turn, given $32,000 of that to Del. Lisa A. Gladden. She is running in the 41st District Senate Democratic primary against Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman and former Del. Frank D. Boston Jr. Rawlings recently waded into a battle over campaign tactics in that race.
The financial transfers were permissible because Rawlings and Gladden are part of the same slate, said Ross Goldstein, director of candidacy and campaign finance with the state board of elections.
"That's my role, I think," Rawlings, 65, said when asked about transfers to other candidates and charities, including the Edmondson-Westside High School girls' basketball team.
"One of the responsibilities that I think I have as a veteran legislator is to be very concerned about ... the future of political leadership in the African-American community in the city of Baltimore," he said.
No Republicans are running in the 40th, a heavily black district with Druid Hill Park at its heart. The district also includes the Johns Hopkins University, Sinai Hospital and the women's detention center.
The two other incumbent delegates - Salima S. Marriott, who teaches social work at Bowie State University, and Tony E. Fulton, a Realtor - have raised $78,840 and $26,484, respectively, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
Among the challengers, Dennis Byrne raised $7,933 and Donald M. Smith collected $4,960. Byrne, 55, runs a consulting firm that helps nonprofit groups maintain state licenses. Smith, 29, is director of policy and management information systems for the nonprofit Center for Fathers.
Two other challengers in the House race, Belinda K. Conaway and Eric Easton, have not filed campaign finance reports - a violation of state law, which makes them subject to fines. Conaway, 34, is a guidance counselor at city schools. Easton, 45, is a computer billing clerk for Seiler-Hughes, a chemical distributor.
In the race for Senate, incumbent Ralph Hughes has $67,944 to challenger Desiree Dodson's $1,050. Hughes, 54, teaches criminal justice at Coppin State College. Dodson, 39, is a self-employed public relations specialist.
At a time when redistricting has reduced the city's representation in Annapolis, the incumbents say Baltimore needs their power and experience.
"For me, that's not a time where you need to make a lot of major changes," said Marriott, 61, who has served 12 years.
Rawlings is a 24-year veteran. Fulton, 50, has been a delegate for 16 years and Hughes, 54, has been a senator for 12.
But the challengers contend that change is long overdue. Pointing to crime, failing schools and other problems of the district, they question the value of the incumbents' long tenure.