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Undaunted by polls, five are vying for mayor with wit, determination

The Baltimore Sun

They're outsiders, and they know it. Just don't call them underdogs.

In a crowded field of seven mayoral hopefuls, these five candidates are the ones sending an anti-establishment, down-with-the-status-quo message in criticizing the two frontrunners in the Baltimore mayor's race.

None has garnered more than 5 percent support in either of two polls conducted for The Sun this summer, and their campaign coffers are tiny compared with those of the leading candidates, interim Mayor Sheila Dixon and Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. Still, they remain undaunted.

Some predict victory, undeterred by poll numbers and the lack of big-name donors. Others say their mission is to inspire voters with dynamic messages amid the staid rhetoric of their competitors.

They have been given a chance to share their ideas in most, but not all, of the debates and forums held this summer by neighborhood groups and broadcast outlets. One of the candidates used the campaign's only televised debate to drop out of the race and throw his support behind Mitchell.

Several of these candidates accuse the news media - including The Sun - of failing to adequately cover their campaigns and say their grass-roots support will emerge Tuesday at the polls.

In addition to attacking Mitchell and Dixon for failing to fix Baltimore's crime and education problems, they have promoted their visions for leading the city with their style of determination, insight and, at times, wit.

The candidates include a second-term delegate in the General Assembly, a socialist with a long history of criticizing politicians for selling out to "fat cats," a schools administrator who surprised political observers by capturing a third of the vote in the 2003 mayoral primary against Martin O'Malley, a PTA president who is a perennial candidate and a businessman with a famous last name.

Phillip A. Brown Jr.

Brown, a PTA president at Thurgood Marshall High School, ran for mayor in 1999.

His campaign has been built on attacking the current city leadership. He says he offers voters a candidate who is "from the streets of Baltimore and didn't get a silver spoon in his mouth."

Brown's message is framed by his work in struggling city schools.

"I have been a PTA president for 15 years," he says. "When we were having meetings on the closing of schools and about the new CEO, these people weren't there. They haven't talked to people out in the streets."

Brown doesn't have a Web site, has rarely responded to requests for interviews and has not publicized a full platform. He says he doesn't need the publicity.

"I don't need all that fancy stuff," he says. "They say I'm not a frontrunner. Well, that's just what the Sunpaper writes. I don't care if the paper writes articles or not."

Instead, Brown says, he focuses on connecting with voters one at a time. "People on the street know me," he says. "They say, 'That's my man. He speaks for me.'"

In a terse exchange with Mitchell during a recent debate, Brown said he didn't think Baltimore had a gang problem but rather "a lot of wannabes."

Mitchell has proposed hiring more officers and establishing a gang unit, tactics that Brown has said are unnecessary.

"We've tried that New York-style policing and didn't hire extra prosecutors," he says, then shifted his criticism to Mitchell and Dixon, saying, "Where were they when O'Malley was in office? They were in their big offices."

Brown says Baltimore is at a crossroads, with many of its residents struggling from paycheck to paycheck and schools failing students.

"I am out there running because kids have problems in their school system," he says.

Andrey Bundley

In 2003, Bundley ran a grass-roots campaign on about $150,000, compared with Mayor Martin O'Malley's $2 million. The high school principal-turned-politician garnered a third of the vote against O'Malley, which some observers said marked the start of a promising political career.

Bundley, 46, said he has been looking toward the Sept. 11 primary since the loss four years ago. He acknowledged that he does not have the support of large corporate donors, saying that the Mitchell and Dixon's campaigns are "manufactured by the establishment."

Bundley says his strength is an aggressive door-to-door campaigning style that is popular among voters.

Recently, he has targeted Mitchell, saying the news media erroneously anointed the councilman as a frontrunner.

"Polls are inaccurate," he says. "I am a good steward of time. The establishment can't stop that. They can stop me from getting equal time in the media, but they can't stop me from using my own time effectively."

Raised in West Baltimore by aunts and uncles after the death of his mother when he was 13, Bundley graduated from Coppin State University, earning master's and doctoral degrees from Pennsylvania State University.

Bundley sometimes recounts his story on the campaign trail to inspire voters, he says.

He pledges to enact a "One Baltimore" plan that would carve the city into 55 neighborhood clusters, each with a 10-member "public service team" of city employees, reporting to a deputy mayor.

Bundley also wants to conduct a census of unemployed Baltimoreans who, with the help of community centers, would be connected to jobs and training.

Bundley has also been critical of gentrification in East and West Baltimore, assailing Dixon for not helping residents return to their neighborhoods once development has taken place. As mayor, he says, he would do business only with developers who promise to hire Baltimore residents in building projects.

"If they won't, I don't have to do business with them," he says.

Bundley is unabashedly confident in his belief that he will become Baltimore's next mayor. "We're going to win," he says. "And people aren't going to say, 'Oh it's so surprising that he won.' It won't be a surprise to the people who believe in me and are working on my campaign."

Jill P. Carter

The second-term delegate representing Northwest Baltimore is known for her biting criticism of Dixon's administration and of O'Malley, as governor and mayor.

More than a year ago, Carter, 44, became one of the most vocal critics of Mayor O'Malley's "zero tolerance" arrest policy. She began calling for more foot patrols and redirecting money spent on police cameras to other crime fighting functions.

In a recent debate, Carter said the Police Department's "crime-fighting philosophy has alienated the citizens" and pledged to declare a state of emergency because "our city is bleeding and dying."

Such a declaration would allow state troopers to help city police fight crime, she said. "As a delegate, I can't get this done," said Carter, who is an of-counsel attorney with the Baltimore firm Craig & Henderson LLC. "But as mayor, I believe I can do this."

She has been vocal on education, calling for the end of the city-state partnership controlling Baltimore schools and pushing for an elected school board.

"The state of our schools is heartbreaking," says Carter. "The city-state partnership was established because the state under-funded the school system. Well, the state continues to under-fund the school system. I am very much in favor of cutting the waste on bureaucratic costs and getting the money to the teachers and students who need it the most."

On the campaign trail, Carter calls her upbringing a major influence on her political career.

The former public defender is the daughter of Baltimore civil rights activist Walter P. Carter. She graduated from Western High School and earned an undergraduate degree from Loyola College and a law degree from the University of Baltimore.

"I'm the daughter of a freedom fighter," she says. "I have spent my entire life working for human dignity and human rights."

Carter and Dixon have had terse exchanges during debates, and Carter has faulted Mitchell for not demanding an end to the city-state school partnership sooner.

"Their collective silence has contributed to our current crisis that they now so eloquently speak about," Carter says of Mitchell and Dixon. "But they have invested in the very failures that they now want to address."

A. Robert Kaufman

He is a radical with a quick delivery and a sharp wit. At a recent debate, Kaufman drew applause and laughter.

Kaufman - a perennial candidate who has over the years run for U.S. Senate, mayor and other state, federal and local positions - says his goal is to motivate voters by engaging them in a discussion on creating jobs, pushing for a living wage and treating addiction as a medical problem.

He says he is not in the race to "win a popularity contest," but rather, "to start a movement."

"They know I'm not going to win; I know I am not going to win. But I think I have the moral high ground, and I think I have gained their respect," Kaufman says of voters. "I win every time somebody hears what I have to say."

Raised in Baltimore, Kaufman, 76, graduated from Park School in 1950 and became involved in civil rights demonstrations around the city. The landlord and teacher attended Goddard College, McCoy College at the Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University.

Kaufman often waxes philosophic about Marxist doctrine, speaking of a small ruling class running the show and the absence of true democracy.

But he also details substantial plans that he says would make the city better.

As mayor, Kaufman would legalize drugs and prostitution in certain "free zones" in the city, which he says would eliminate the city's "drug war" and root of its crime problem.

During debates, he takes issue with his opponents' plans to reform the Police Department as a means of solving Baltimore's stubborn crime problem.

"The police did not create the problem," he says. "To end crime and murder, you end poverty."

Kaufman favors what he calls "democratizing the school system," giving teachers, parents and principals more power.

Mike Schaefer

Many candidates run on name recognition, but few have done so quite like Schaefer.

Every time he gets the chance, the former hotel owner proudly proclaims his affection for one William Donald Schaefer.

Schaefer the candidate is not related to Schaefer the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, however.

To the candidate, that makes little difference. Candidate Schaefer is hoping to mold himself in the famous politician's image, even adopting Schaefer's style of off-the-cuff, and at times bizarre, comments.

"He speaks off the top of his head, and he's sort of a showman," said Schaefer, 69. "We have a lot in common, not just the name."

Schaefer says he is a friend with the former mayor and meets him for lunch about once a week and has an autographed photo of the former governor in one of his most famous poses, clad in a Victorian swimsuit and carrying a rubber duck.

If elected, Schaefer promises, he will offer the former mayor a desk in his office. On his Web site, the candidate has a photo of himself superimposed on one of the bare-chested Arnold Schwarzenegger. As mayor, Schaefer, says, he would forgive parking tickets given on a person's birthday.

The former owner of a Mount Vernon hotel named after Schaefer says he has a serious side and concrete plans to improve Baltimore.

He pledges to start a jobs program for people ages 15 to 25 and a foster father program for teenagers.

"There are a lot of good men who would enjoy being mentors, especially if they had the city's financial support and recognition," he says.

Schaefer says he would recruit talented police officers from such cities as Chicago and Detroit and offer salaries starting at $50,000.

He plans to fund those changes in part with a commuter tax.

Schaefer grew up in California, received a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from Georgetown University. He has run in other parts of the country for offices that were once occupied by well-known Schaefers.

"Schaefer used to say he did the work because he loved the job," he says. "It might sound Pollyanna, but I am one of those people who believes that the noblest interest is the public good."

kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

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