BALTIMORE, JULY 6 -- Clarence H. (Du) Burns, Baltimore's mayor by automatic succession, formally announced today what he has been saying informally for six months: He will seek election to the mayor's seat in his own right.
Addressing about 200 well-wishers on the grounds of Dunbar High School where he once worked as a locker room attendant before entering politics, Burns, 68, said being mayor since January "feels good. It tastes good. I want to stay there."
Burns, as City Council president, automatically became mayor in January when former mayor William Donald Schaefer was installed as governor of Maryland. Burns now faces Baltimore State's Attorney Kurt L. Schmoke in the city's Democratic primary in September.
Both men are seeking to become Baltimore's first elected black mayor. No major Republican candidate is expected to oppose Schmoke or Burns in the November general election. Voter registration in the city is about 10-to-1 Democratic.
Schmoke, 37, a lawyer and Rhodes scholar who has consistently outpolled Burns in opinion surveys, has created a broad-based and well-heeled campaign.
In contrast, Burns, who completed only high school and speaks in a folksy, rough-edged manner, has gotten off to a slow start with his campaign at times in disarray. In his public comments, he has tried to translate Schmoke's relative youthfulness as inexperience and to claim his own 40 years in neighborhood and City Hall politics as far more valuable than Schmoke's academic credentials.
"There's a lot of crazy stuff going around about the need to have a college degree," Burns said today, in reference to Schmoke's undergraduate degree from Yale and law degree from Harvard. " . . . But if you had to have a college degree, Harry Truman never would have been president of the United States. And Abraham Lincoln never would have been president of the United States."
Burns also scoffed at suggestions in a Baltimore Sun editorial last week that he abandon the mayoral race and seek his old seat as City Council president. "That's not me you hear saying that," he said. The editorial suggested that because he is likely to lose to Schmoke, a Schaefer adversary, Burns should retake the council presidency to assure the city that "Gov. Schaefer would have at least one good friend high in the City Hall hierarchy."