Primary results show O'Malley won African-American majority


Mayor Martin O'Malley sought - and won - something more than the victory he got in Tuesday's Democratic primary: the support of Baltimore's African-American majority.

An analysis by The Sun of election results and U.S. Census data suggests that O'Malley won with a clear majority of black voters, support that bodes well for his political future.

Of the 125 precincts where African-Americans make up at least 90 percent of the population, O'Malley won 89, scoring margins of victory as high as 70 percent.

His main challenger, Andrey Bundley, who is black, won 33 of those precincts, but in those areas O'Malley received at least 40 percent of the vote.

O'Malley won all of the 43 precincts that are least 90 percent white, with margins of victory ranging between 90 percent and 99 percent.

Of the remaining 148 precincts in the city, O'Malley won all but one.

His total margin of victory Tuesday - capturing 66 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Bundley - was the largest in a city mayoral primary in 20 years. In all, voters chose O'Malley over Bundley in 282 of the city's 316 electoral precincts. In three precincts they received identical totals.

"I think he has made a very productive effort to be mayor of all of Baltimore with a special focus on the African-American community," said state Del. Howard P. Rawlings, an O'Malley ally.

"These results show that he has succeeded."

O'Malley said the results are a rebuke to "the politics of division and fear."

"Four years ago there were a lot of people who were doubting whether the city could move forward under a ... mayor who was not black," said O'Malley, who first won election in 1999.

"Our progress as a city is determined by the character of our people, not so much by the gender or skin color of our elected officials."

Past victories

In the 1999 primary, O'Malley ran as a City Council member against two well-established black candidates - Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and former school board member Carl Stokes.

O'Malley captured an estimated one-third of the black vote in the three-way race and won the primary with 53 percent of the total vote.

"This [year's results] show that there has been a great improvement over the level of support O'Malley had in 1999" in the black community, said Rawlings. "His goal was to get 51 percent."

Based on the analysis of census and voting data, O'Malley may have exceeded that goal for the African-American vote. It's impossible to provide an exact racial breakdown of the vote because the race of voters is not recorded at the polls.

Rawlings said he attributes the strong showing to O'Malley's commitment to minority businesses and to appointing African-Americans to positions of power within his administration.

Bundley's appeal was limited mostly to black voters in West Baltimore near where he is principal of Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy and where he lives in Reservoir Hill. He also did well in neighborhoods around Morgan State University, and in parts of Cherry Hill and Park Heights.

Changing patterns

O'Malley appeared to be popular among a large number of black voters in African-American precincts in East Baltimore as well as in Northwest and Northeast Baltimore.

The primary's results would seem to bolster conventional political wisdom that whites do not vote as readily for black candidates as blacks will vote for white candidates. Decades after desegregation, Baltimore remains racially divided by neighborhood: 53 percent of precincts are at least 90 percent white or black.

Still, O'Malley said he believes some of Tuesday's results show that that pattern has been partially changed.

"I think that we've known for some time, especially given the results of the mayoral race four years ago, that African-American voters are fair enough to vote for white candidates that they feel are the best choice," O'Malley said.

"But we could not say that with any real assurance about white voters."

O'Malley also said that the result of the council president's race "shows a lot of progress on race in our city."

While there were no white candidates running, incumbent president Sheila Dixon ran on O'Malley's ticket. Her challengers, Stokes and Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh, tried to use that against her by characterizing her as an O'Malley pawn.

Dixon won with 54 percent of the vote, capturing 294 of 316 precincts.

The precincts won by Pugh, who captured 34 percent of the vote, included many mostly white neighborhoods, many of them comparatively affluent. They included Roland Park, Guilford, Charles Village, Johns Hopkins/Homewood, Canterbury Tuscany, Bolton Hill, Little Italy and parts of Mount Vernon, Federal Hill, Upper Fells Point and Highlandtown.

All but one of the 22 districts won by Pugh were majority white (the one exception, Bolton Hill, is about 52 percent black and 48 percent white).

'Smoke and mirrors'

Bundley campaign strategist Julius Henson said he believes O'Malley fooled black voters into giving their support by providing a false impression of his accomplishments.

"It's all been smoke and mirrors. He had to do nothing for his base" of white voters, Henson said. "He directed all of his efforts at the black community and said, 'Hey, look what I did for you.'"

Henson said Bundley's 32 percent total shows that "there is some part of the electorate saying O'Malley has not done that great of a job."

"He earned the victory, and you have to take your hat off for him," Henson said. "I would say he will be the Democratic nominee for governor" in 2006.

O'Malley will first have to get past Republican challenger Elbert R. Henderson in the general election Nov. 2, 2004, although few think O'Malley will lose because Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1 in the city.

O'Malley's ability to capture a majority of Baltimore's black vote bodes well for his statewide ambitions, said Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

"It says something about his appeal in Prince George's County," a majority black county that adjoins Montgomery County, Crenson said.

Rawlings said O'Malley's success will be noticed throughout the state.

"African-American voters in Maryland constitute a significant vote base," Rawlings said.

Sun staff writer Mike Himowitz contributed to this article.

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