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Outsiders make run for district seats

Baltimore's quirky election cycle has created a new class of carpetbagger, one who doesn't even bother moving into a City Council district before running to represent it.

Normally, candidates have to live in the districts where they run. But an unusual 14-month gap between Tuesday's primary and next year's general election has undercut those residency rules.

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As a result, the primary features several candidates who do not live in the area where they're running.

People who study elections say this might be a one-of-a-kind quirk.

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"Maybe sometime in the dim past there was another state that messed up its election cycle as much as we did, but I don't know about it," said Matthew Crenson, chairman of the political science department at the Johns Hopkins University. "This one is really just bizarre."

City election rules require that candidates live in their district at least a year before the general election. Ordinarily that means candidates also must live in the district before running in the primary, since primaries are usually a couple of months before the general election.

But the gap between the primary and the Nov. 2, 2004, general election gives primary candidates until November to move.

"You can live in Biloxi, Mississippi, and file," said Arthur W. Murphy, a Baltimore political consultant.

That's not quite the case. Candidates have to be registered Maryland voters to run. But they can hail from any far-flung corner of the state and legally stand for election in Baltimore this year.

Critics called Andrey Bundley a carpetbagger for moving out of Baltimore County and into his in-laws' Reservoir Hill house to run for city mayor. But the fact is, he didn't have to move at all, except for appearance's sake.

"It's quite unusual and it sort of violates the principles of representation," said Lenneal Henderson, a professor at the University of Baltimore's school of public affairs. "One of the principles is you live in the legislative district not just to meet the residency requirement but to be familiar with the needs of the citizens who live in that district."

All of the out-of-district City Council candidates live in the city. Many say they were barely cut out of their chosen districts when the political map was redrawn this year.

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Whenever there is redistricting, it is common for incumbents to move in order to run in their old districts.

But candidates also have the option of waiting until they clear the first hurdle -- the primary -- before moving .

"You hear a lot of cases of candidates who move into a district -- or into a state in the case of Bobby Kennedy -- for the express purpose of running in an election," Crenson said, referring to Robert F. Kennedy's move to New York for his successful U.S. Senate run. "But you don't get many cases where you can actually make the move after the election."

The long gap between the primary and general election came about after city voters passed a referendum in 1999 to put local elections in sync with presidential elections. But only the General Assembly can change primary dates. City officials lobbied state legislators to move the primary to March or September of next year, but the legislature ended its session in April without acting.

Political interlopers aren't the only peculiarity to spring from the 14-month delay. Some 16-year-olds will be allowed to vote in the primary -- also believed to be a first in election history -- because they will be 18 on the day of the general election.

Councilman Melvin L. Stukes decided not to wait until the primary to move to Woodington Apartments in the 8th District.

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"I'm a man of my word. I'm here for the haul. I'm not that kind of a person" to wait for the primary results to move, he said. "I made my investment, which is not an easy thing to do."

But other candidates make no apologies for waiting out the primary before pulling up stakes.

Leon Cliff Purnell is running in the 12th District but lives in the 13th.

"I'm not that far out of the district," he said. "I spend most of my time in this district anyway. I work here. I grew up in this district, the whole nine yards. I'm here more times than I'm anywhere else.

"If I win the primary, I'd move," he said, adding that he would probably live with his mother, who resides in the district.

Benjamin A. Neil lived just outside the 1st District when he launched his campaign to represent the area on the City Council. But late last month he purchased a house in Canton, which is in the district, and started moving in.

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"I've got in excess of a $300,000 commitment" to the district, he said. Referring to the November deadline for moving, he added, "I'm way ahead of that curve."


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