JUDGING BY the last mayoral debate, Martin O'Malley might have something to worry about. The long-shot candidate with hardly any money did well.
And many in the crowd of several hundred seemed to like what they saw of Andrey Bundley.
The Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy principal strode to the stage in Coppin State College's James Weldon Johnson Auditorium Friday night to a roof-raising, raucous and thundering welcome from his supporters. He wore a dark suit, as if to symbolize the seriousness of the matter at hand.
When debating time came around, Bundley got down to business. He virtually ignored the other candidates - Democrats Marvin Ray Jones, A. Robert Kaufman, Charles U. Smith and lone Republican Elbert Ray Henderson - and focused his attack on the incumbent mayor.
Noel Poyo - one of three panelists who questioned the candidates at the NAACP-sponsored candidates' forum, which also featured a debate among four of those running for City Council president - asked how each mayoral hopeful would better serve the city's Hispanic and Korean immigrants who had limited English skills. Bundley gave a brief answer and then cleverly sneaked in an attack that implied the mayor had cooked the books on statistics showing there has been a decrease in crime during his administration.
Panelist Sherrilyn Ifill asked all the candidates what they would do about the "unconscionable" fact that 5,000 juveniles had been arrested in Baltimore during the first six months of this year. O'Malley answered that, regrettable as the situation was, it showed that drug dealers are now using juveniles as mules.
"What distresses me is the number of kids who've been murdered in Baltimore, and they haven't been murdered by police," O'Malley said, taking a dig at some candidates who suggested that the mayor had brought a brutal and murderous police force to town.
Again, Bundley pounced on O'Malley's answer, and O'Malley's answer only.
"When you talk about our children, don't talk about them as numbers," Bundley said. He then rattled off the names of some of the young people who have been killed. Toward the end of the debate, Bundley accused O'Malley of using the mayor's office to pursue higher political ambitions.
"You can't have a vision for your city," Bundley scolded, "unless you really want to be there. You can't have a vision for a place you don't want to be."
Political neophyte Bundley did better in this debate than anyone might have expected. Not surprisingly, Julius Henson, Bundley's campaign consultant, said as much.
"He didn't need to win tonight," Henson said. "He just needed to not stumble. He did that."
But Arthur Murphy, also a political consultant, said Bundley needed to do more.
"The whole challenge to a debate," Murphy said, "is to show that you, as a challenger, are better than the other candidate. Bundley had to not only not stumble - Henson is absolutely right in that regard - but he's missing one component: that Bundley can do a better job."
Murphy saw another problem: The debate wasn't televised and hence "had no impact whatsoever."
But maybe one of the local television stations will realize its civic duty and televise one - or both - of the remaining mayoral debates, set for Aug. 27 at Western High School and Sept. 4 in the Enoch Pratt Library's Wheeler Auditorium.
There is another downside to Bundley's successful David vs. Goliath act. His good showing at the debate may have been diminished by the shenanigans of some of the other candidates. Kaufman, who can always be relied on for controversy, didn't disappoint this time around, either.
"I've been to all these candidates' forums," Kaufman said, "and this is the first time I've seen the white boy over here."
Kaufman gestured to his right, where O'Malley stood, as he made the comment. Some thought he was referring to Poyo, who's of Hispanic heritage. But Kaufman said Sunday that he was indeed referring to O'Malley.
"Since he represents the moneyed interests instead of the people," Kaufman elaborated, "I figure he's got it coming."
The crack still smacked of just a wee bit of race-baiting by Kaufman, who had started the evening by chiding some blacks for holding forums that excluded white candidates. But Kaufman's a leftist, and as has been proved time and again in this society, those on the left can race-bait with impunity.
So the night of Aug. 15 may not be known as the night Bundley more than held his own with the more experienced but clearly not more polished O'Malley. It may be known as the night Kaufman called O'Malley "the white boy."
Add to that Henderson's loud proclamation that "children is getting no education," and it's clear why the person who said, "I don't vote; it only encourages 'em," clearly ranks as a sage for the ages.