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For council head, a race to garner endorsements

Two candidates for the City Council presidency held dueling news conferences to announce endorsements yesterday - Catherine Pugh by police officers and Sheila Dixon by 52 unions.

The contest for the city's second-highest position appears to be highly competitive, as judged by the number of signs posted along city streets and campaign funds raised, with Dixon having $120,000 and Pugh $91,000.

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A third candidate, Carl Stokes, a former city councilman, has far fewer signs and $10,756 in the bank - mostly provided by himself.

But in terms of the number of endorsements, incumbent Dixon is swamping the competition, with support from Mayor Martin O'Malley and 23 other elected officials, including 12 of the City Council's 19 members.

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Pugh, a public relations executive elected to the council in 1999, held the first event yesterday when the city's branch of the Fraternal Order of Police announced that it was supporting her because the union thought she would be stronger on law enforcement issues.

Dan Fickus, president of the 3,300-member organization, said that its officers favored Pugh in part because they believe Dixon will cut funding for the Police Department.

"Sheila has been strong on law enforcement, but she also mentioned that she would be looking to reduce funding to the police in upcoming years, and Cathy Pugh has always been very supportive of our budgets," said Fickus, whose group also endorsed the re-election of Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"Sheila said she might increase funding for education instead of police," Fickus said.

Dixon, elected council president in 1999, said that the police organization was wrong about her record and apparently misunderstood her statements about providing money for schools.

"I never said that," Dixon said about cutting the Police Department's budget.

"I have been very supportive of funding for the Police Department. I said we need to provide additional funding for our schools," she said.

Pugh said she appreciates the FOP's backing. She said she has worked hard over the years to encourage neighborhood watch organizations, pass legislation that bans body armor for anyone other than law enforcement officers and prohibit dirt bikes on city streets.

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Yesterday evening, more than 400 representatives from 52 other unions packed a loud meeting at the Steelworkers Local 9477 union hall on Dundalk Avenue to endorse Dixon and O'Malley.

The crowd of longshoremen, iron workers, firefighters and others cheered when O'Malley grabbed and raised Dixon's hand in the air.

"Sheila is someone who has been a friend of mine for many years," said Ron DeJuliis, business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 37.

"She's not concerned about the rich, but for everyday working-class people." DeJuliis said.

Dixon said the support showed that most working people in the city back her candidacy, despite a parliamentary maneuver by a small group on July 17 that blocked an endorsement by a union umbrella organization, the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO.

Pugh has been endorsed by the Mount Royal Democratic Club and the political arm of the community activist group ACORN.

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Stokes has been endorsed by the Baltimore City League of Environmental Voters.


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