Martin O'Malley, the young mayor who urged Baltimore to believe in him and itself, easily defeated a high school principal in a Democratic primary yesterday that also gave a victory to City Council President Sheila Dixon and created some long- term lame ducks on a revamped council.
In declaring victory, O'Malley invoked a football great and a famous abolitionist to urge Baltimoreans to have faith that the city can overcome its many problems.
"We are still the hopeful people that Johnny Unitas and Frederick Douglass loved." O'Malley, accompanied by his wife and four children, told hundreds of supporters celebrating at Montgomery Park in South west Baltimore. "Remember, remember the words of Frederick Douglass, that if there is no struggle, there is no progress."
About a third of the city's eligible voters participated in the primary, on a day that offered perfect weather and a historic opportunity for 16-year-olds to vote.
The primary came more than a year before the general election, an unusually long delay that might have helped depress turnout and could make for an awkward transition period for council members.
Most of yesterday's winners will face Republicans or independents in the November 2004 election, but those contests are widely seen as formalities in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1.
The elections were the first since a ballot initiative brought by a spirited coalition of labor and community groups forced the city to reorganize the council last year.
O'Malley, 40, had been expected to win easily over his main challenger, Andrey Bundley, 42, principal of Walbrook Uniform Services Academy.
Elected four years ago as a crime fighter, O'Malley has attracted national press as an up- and-coming Democrat who pumps iron, plays in an Irish rockband and tries to tame bureaucracy with an oversight system called CitiStat. In November, Esquire magazine featured him on its cover as "the best young mayor in America."
For the past year-and-a-half, O'Malley has promoted an anti-drug campaign called Baltimore Believe, which urges every resident to do one thing to fight drugs, from mentoring children to reporting dealers to police.
O'Malley ran on a record of reducing crime, raising school test scores, improving city services and creating jobs. Bundley questioned whether those gains were real. He urged more emphasis on education, mentoring and job training, and less on zero-tolerance policing. Bundley also appealed to black voters to make him the first African-American to unseat an incumbent mayor.
Bundley conceded shortly after 10 p.m., speaking without a microphone to a throng of supporters chanting "Bundley, Bundley, Bundley" outside an East Baltimore rowhouse.
Bundley never mentioned O'Malley by name, but said, "I'm not here to divide this city. It is important that we bring this city together."
Elbert R. Henderson was unopposed in the Republican primary for mayor.
Also unopposed was Comptroller Joan Pratt, a Democrat.
With about one-third of the city's 285,539 eligible voters participating in the primary, turn out was better than what elections officials had predicted. Turnout was 36.3 percent 1999, when a fiercely competitive race for mayor occurred.
The race for council president took on added significance this year because of the possibility that O'Malley would be reelected, run for governor in 2006 and win. The council president would become mayor if O'Malley did not complete his term.
O'Malley flirted with running for governor last fall, and many expect him to seek higher office before his next term is up.
Dixon, a blunt-talking black belt who has spent 16 years on the council, touted her close alliance with O'Malley throughout the campaign. She urged voters to return the duo to City Hall.
Stokes, a former councilman who ran for mayor against O'Malley in 1999, said Dixon had been too chummy with the mayor and failed to lead the council as an independent body.
Pugh, a first-term council woman, accused Dixon of ethical lapses - hiring relatives for city jobs, for example. Like Stokes, Pugh promised to be more independent of the admi istration.
The primary is tantamount to the final election in a city that has 230,616 registered Democrats and 27,173 Republicans, said Barbara E. Jackson, the city election administrator. The city's last Republican mayor, Theodore R. McKeldin, was elected 40 years ago.
Confusion about the new single-member districts probably kept some voters home, said Lenneal Henderson, professor at the University of Baltimore's school of public affairs.
"Whenever there's novelty introduced in the electoral process, it takes a couple of elections for the voters to adjust." he said. "We"ve got a serious novelty here."
In the race for mayor, voters preferred O'Malley's record over the untested high school principal, Bundley.
"He's putting in a lot of effort, a lot of effort." said Jessie Blackwell, 52, a makeup artist from West Baltimore who cast her ballot for O'Malley.
Millard Jenkins, an African- American resident of the Lakeview Towers senior housing on Druid Park Lake Drive, said Bundley's racial appeal fell flat with him. He voted for O'Malley.
"Color don't mean anything; it's the leadership." said Jenkins, 78, a retired printer.
But Brenda Bailey, a former special education teacher from West Baltimore, voted for Bundley at St. Bernardine Roman Catholic Church on Edmondson Avenue. "I'm an educator, and I believe in him." said Bailey, 59.
The primary came 14 months before the November 2004 general election, an uncommonly long lag that led to a few electoral firsts - and could make for an ungainly lame-duck period. Seven members of the current, 19-member council will not be coming back, but they'll remain in office for more than a year.
The delay came about after city officials and state lawmakers failed to agree on a new primary date before the General Assembly session ended in April. That gave candidates and elections officials just five months to prepare for the primary.
The long gap also gave some 16-year-olds the right to vote in what is believed to be a first in American electoral history. They were allowed to participate in the primary if they will turn 18 by the general election.
But only 855 16-year-olds registered to vote, Jackson said.
One who did was King S. Awonusi II, a 16-year-old senior at Dunbar High School who cast his first ballot at the fire hall near his home on East Cold Spring Lane.
The primary came 10 months after city residents voted to shrink and reshape the council, from six three-member districts to 14 single-member districts. The council president continues to be elected citywide.
One big change that resulted: Instead of campaigning together on hard-to-beat slates, incumbents had to run on their own and, in some districts, against each other.
Even before the first vote was cast, the next council was guaranteed to have a lot of new faces.
Four council members gave up their seats: Pugh, Kwame Osayaba Abayomi, Lisa Stancil and John Cain. Six others had to run against each other: Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. vs. Lois Garey in the 2nd; Melvin L. Stukes vs. Helen L. Holton in the 8th; and Bernard C. "Jack' Young vs. Pamela V. Carter in the 12th.
Garey, Stukes and Carter lost to their council colleagues.