CLARIFICATION--In yesterday's late editions, the headline on the front page story about the mayoral primary election in Baltimore, "White Man Gets Mayoral Nomination in Baltimore," distorted the role of race in the election and violated Washington Post policy about reporting racial identifications only in proper context. (Pulbished 09/16/1999)
Martin O'Malley, a white City Council member, won the Democratic mayoral nomination today in this black-majority city. His biggest challenge came from two black candidates, but he easily outdistanced them.
O'Malley, 36, a lawyer from northeast Baltimore and a council member since 1991, had 53 percent of the Democratic vote, to 28 percent for former City Council member Carl Stokes and 17 percent for council President Lawrence A. Bell III. Fourteen other candidates trailed far behind.
Traditionally, the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election here, given the ratio of about nine registered Democrats to every Republican voter.
In November, O'Malley will face developer David F. Tufaro, 52, who bested five opponents in the Republican primary today. The general election winner will succeed Kurt L. Schmoke (D), the city's first elected black mayor, who decided not to seek a fourth term.
The campaign drew national attention as others watched to see whether Baltimore would follow such large cities as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, where white mayors have succeeded black mayors in recent years. Baltimore's population is about two-thirds black.
O'Malley had been endorsed by several black state legislators and by former mayor and governor William Donald Schaefer (D), who is now state comptroller.
The main component of his campaign was fighting crime, and he advocated a "zero tolerance" approach, similar to one instituted by New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), to address even the smallest of offenses. Bell also came out for "zero tolerance," but Stokes did not, saying it would hit minorities hardest.
Critics of this year's primary contest said it was notable for the absence of a visionary who could rescue the city from its high homicide rate, backlogged courts and poor schools and who could persuade people to stay and invest in Baltimore instead of moving out, as 1,000 residents do every month.
But when the vote was in tonight, O'Malley, speaking to supporters at the Port Discovery children's museum here, said: "This is a victory for diversity and a victory for inclusiveness, and it is a resounding defeat for divisiveness, fear and the worn-out politics of the past. . . . It's time to build a new Baltimore."
In a television interview, O'Malley said he would identify 10 high-crime street corners as top priorities in a drive "to restore peace" and curb drug dealing if he wins in November.
The campaign season was marred by a series of personal, financial and legal gaffes by various candidates, and influenced by the divisive politics of race.
After Schmoke announced his retirement from the mayor's office last year, several local leaders tried to persuade NAACP President Kweisi Mfume to run. When he announced in May that he was not interested, they looked elsewhere. Some tried to draft Schaefer, but he also declined.
O'Malley entered the race to accusations that he was a political opportunist, looking to benefit from a black vote split between Bell and Stokes.
The race also became somewhat of a spectacle, with several candidates for mayor caught up in controversy. Several candidates were found to have arrest records, and one candidate in the Republican mayoral primary turned out to be wanted on a year-old warrant charging her with misdemeanor burglary. She was arrested after police recognized her during a television interview.
Bell, the early Democratic front-runner, suffered a series of setbacks, including revelations about his personal financial troubles and lawsuits filed against him for unpaid debts. He has repeatedly had to denounce the actions of some of his supporters, who disrupted an endorsement rally for O'Malley and distributed copies of a white supremacist group's letter endorsing O'Malley in African American neighborhoods.
Stokes apologized early and often for campaign literature that falsely claimed he held a degree from Loyola College.