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.