Mitchell confident ahead of election

The Baltimore Sun

Despite lagging in the polls, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. said yesterday that he was confident he could pull an upset in the city's Sept. 11 mayoral primary.

"The poll today is not reflective of what's happening in the streets of Baltimore," he said. "We're not going to allow a poll, or The Baltimore Sun, or a polling company to determine the election. That poll will not be reflective of Election Day."

In a Sun poll conducted late last month, 19 percent of likely Democratic voters surveyed supported Mitchell, while 46 percent backed Mayor Sheila Dixon. Mitchell had made a small gain of 4 percentage points while Dixon lost 1 percentage point since a poll conducted in July.

"The poll confirmed what the mayor is feeling when she's out in the community," Martha McKenna, Dixon's campaign manager, said yesterday. "People recognize the challenges before us."

At a news conference yesterday, Mitchell continued to criticize Dixon for the "lack of real leadership," noting the number of homicides in the city and the low graduation rates of students.

"The interim mayor of Baltimore has not committed to making our city safe or better educated," he said, surrounded by supporters wearing orange Mitchell campaign T-shirts in front of Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School in Bolton Hill.

He promoted two proposals regarding the city's youth, saying these ideas were components of his overall public safety plan. Mitchell suggested forming partnerships with local businesses to build youth recreation centers and sports fields funded by donations and named after the businesses.

His second proposal, which he had mentioned in his declaration of candidacy in January, was to create an after-school program modeled after the "citizens school" in Louisville, Ky. He envisions after-school programs taught by volunteers in such topics as photography and music.

"We will have after-school programs so our children will not be recruited by drug dealers and gangs, but rather by colleges and universities," Mitchell said.

McKenna challenged the timing of Mitchell's news conference.

"The Sun poll showed ... that Keiffer Mitchell was not making any progress politicizing crime, so he came up with a game plan to start talking about after-school programs and kids," she said. "While he has been campaigning, the mayor has put children and families first."

Dixon has increased the recreation and parks budget by 10 percent to hire 23 new recreation leaders, she said.

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