Mayor puts his record on the line
O'Malley declares bid for 2nd term, promotes success on schools, crime; 'Continue the job we've begun'
By A Sun Staff Writer

June 24, 2003

Mayor Martin O'Malley launched his re-election campaign yesterday at two events staged to parade his administration's first-term efforts toward aiding addicts, curtailing crime and improving city schools over the past four years.

The highly favored incumbent put his $2 million campaign kitty to work by providing chartered - and, more important on a 90-degree day, air-conditioned - buses to shuttle supporters and campaign volunteers to his two speeches. As O'Malley spoke, his supporters surrounded him at the podium, waving signs that bore the campaign's slogan: "Because better isn't good enough."

"I'm standing here today asking for a second term to continue the job we've begun because I know there are many more people in this city who are filled with hope than who are filled with despair," O'Malley said at a speech at Gaudenzia Baltimore, a drug treatment center at 4615 Park Heights Ave.

The announcement at the center underscored an O'Malley re-election theme - his two-pronged approach to fighting crime, providing drug treatment to help addicts and a persistent police presence to ward off drug dealers. The center, which opened last year, was the first in the city in more than 30 years.

"He has his finger on the pulse" of how to pair crime fighting with treatment, said David Reese, 34, an O'Malley supporter and Gaudenzia resident being treated for heroin and cocaine addiction.

O'Malley promoted his administration's success at reducing the number of drug-related emergency room visits and for leading the nation in the reduction of violent crime over the past three years. He said his administration's gains are a credit to residents who have worked with the police to fight dealers and who have encouraged friends and family to seek treatment.

"In every neighborhood in this city, people are stepping up," O'Malley told nearly 175 supporters and members of the news media at the event. But he added that many of his opponents say the city has not made any progress.

"Today there are still some people who think that it's all just a fluke," he said.

O'Malley is being challenged in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary by Carl Stokes, a health care executive who lost to O'Malley in 1999; attorney Anton J.S. Keating; A. Robert Kaufman, a perennial candidate; Charles U. Smith, former candidate for Congress; and Andrey Bundley, Walbrook Academy principal, whose campaign literature flittered in the windshield wipers of many cars on the street near the Gaudenzia treatment center.

Filing deadline

Most of the declared challengers do not have the money to seriously challenge O'Malley, political experts said. Time is running out for a well-known contender to step forward. The filing deadline is Monday.

The most serious potential contender is state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who many political experts said has the name recognition to pose a threat.

"June 30 will tell the tale of whether I will be a candidate," Conway said yesterday. She said she is speaking with other candidates to see if they will drop out if she runs. Stokes has repeatedly said he will not, but Conway said she was not convinced. "We'll see. We'll see," she said.

GOP counters

The Maryland Republican Party released a statement to counter O'Malley's position that Baltimore is safer, saying he has failed to achieve his promise of reducing homicides to 175. "Despite O'Malley's grand schemes, Baltimore's streets are still unsafe, children are receiving substandard education, businesses and residents continue to leave the city," the statement said.

"We feel the voters of Baltimore deserve to know that everything is not hunky-dory," said Eric Sutton, the party's executive director.

The supporters who accompanied O'Malley on his chartered bus yesterday disputed that assessment.

Lillian Sydnoor, president of the Cold Spring Lane Improvement Association, said O'Malley has helped the city's poor by increasing drug treatment and by pushing economic development in neighborhoods.

"Everything used to be all about the Inner Harbor and never the inner city," Sydnoor said.

After O'Malley's speech at Gaudenzia, he delivered a second speech outside City Springs Elementary School on Caroline Street. He pointed to the majority of first- and second-graders scoring above the national average in reading and math as another sign that Baltimore is improving. He said public safety has been the foundation for creating an environment where students can "realize their God-given talents."

"We have expended a great deal of effort, and we have made a great deal of progress - more progress than any other city in the last three years - toward making Baltimore the safest big city in America," O'Malley said. "But now, as we continue toward that goal, we have to make our children, and their future, our Number 1 priority."

Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun