MARTIN O'MALLEY, the city councilman who scored a stunning victory in Baltimore's Democratic primary for mayor Tuesday, jumped into the race only two weeks before the deadline with a mission that struck a strong chord across the city. He said that neither of the leading candidates -- city council president Lawrence A. Bell III and former council member Carl Stokes -- was focusing on closing down the city's open-air drug markets. When he announced his platform of "Change and Reform," some party activists saw his entry as an attempt by a white candidate to talk law and order and split Baltimore's African American majority. But voters saw the candidacy differently: Mr. O'Malley appealed to and won a majority of the total vote. And his emphasis on cutting crime clearly resonated across racial lines.
In a city where nearly 90 percent of the voters are Democrats, Mr. O'Malley, 36, enters the Nov. 2 general election campaign in strong shape to take on Republican primary winner David F. Tufaro, 52, a developer who won 53 percent of the GOP vote. In both campaigns voters at debates expressed a strong desire for departures from the 12-year administration of Kurt Schmoke, citing needs for more public safety measures and for more extensive revitalization of the city.
During the Schmoke years, Baltimore's domination of state government has waned, in large part because of suburban growth there and in the Washington area. Mayor Schmoke's relatively low profile in Annapolis didn't help either; his counterparts from Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore counties all worked on legislative coalitions that sought to right the "Baltimore Tilt" that had sent hefty state aid to the city. How the next mayor operates in Annapolis should be an issue in the campaign still to unfold.
Mr. O'Malley's chief challenge, if he is elected, will be to deliver on a general pledge to stop the drugs and the killings. Given the evident hunger among voters for results, he should promptly spell out details.