First time candidate Otis Rolley, former Baltimore City Planning Department head, transportation guru and chief of staff to former Mayor Sheila Dixon, is looking to national figures to assist in his lofty fundraising expectations. Reaching out to Bill Cosby, the controversial yet adored TV star of the Cosby Show, Rolley expects to topple perceived financial expectations of someone in his menial stature, with a multi-faceted fundraiser with the comedian before the January campaign finance deadline.
According to most political insiders, a serious citywide campaign would have to raise at least about a million dollars in order to be competitive and it seems as though the Park Heights admiring Rolley may try and surpass that goal. Having a $4,000.00 a plate affair with Cosby, with other less pricey functions such as a $75 comedy show and other $250 and $500 events for those financially less fortunate, Rolley seems to have stepped to the political plate as a seasoned professional, knowing that this is a once in a lifetime shot at national superstardom, therefore you need to get everything you can out of the celebrity’s appearance. However even if Rolley raises money past the expected $1-million mark, he still would face an incumbent with the potential to raise 4-5 times that amount; an opponent that also has the backing of a State/City powerhouse known as Governor Martin O’Malley.
Coming into a political season being the incumbent surely helps as you have the power of the bully-pulpit so to speak, though Mayor Rawlings-Blake faces the uncertain challenge of never before being elected citywide as Mayor. She has however won citywide in 2007 as Council President, yet that may not translate into votes for the city’s top spot, as she may face a whole heap of challengers ranging from Rolley, current citywide elected Court Clerk Frank Conaway, current 40th district state senator Catherine Pugh, 41st district delegate Jill P. Carter, along with the possibilities of Kweisi Mfume and another white male/female that could jump in the race and take us back to the old days of 1999.
It was then, that current Mayor and then Councilwoman Rawlings-Blake jumped out there in left field with her support for an unexpected Mayoral challenger by the name of Councilman Martin O’Malley. Having only been in the council for a short period of time and having no real citywide name recognition, Team O’Malley saw the onslaught of black candidates for the top spot, with Council President Lawrence Bell and Councilman Carl Stokes battling it out for front-runner status, and took full advantage of the circumstances presented. This anomaly left a wide open field for a white candidate to run right up the middle and steal the election away from both Stokes and Bell, and all other blacks in the race, having O’Malley win in a City with a population that has majority of African American residents. This led to Baltimore becoming a laughing stock across the country, especially in the more urban black communities, whereas they saw this as a direct slap in the face to true racial representation. However remembering the old adage that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, begs the question as to will we see that same scenario played out again here in the City of Baltimore in 2011?
In 1999, you had quiet a few players involved in the outcome of that citywide race, as plenty of Baltimore’s financial powerhouses had a lot to either lose, or gain, in the outcome of such a race. Well nothing has changed regarding those players and their financial investments here in the City of Baltimore, therefore the only question is, how are they going to play this year’s upcoming hand that’s dealt to them and if we will allow for such manipulation again in a City still reeling from the last Mayor’s departure?
Twelve years ago, you had financiers of certain citywide candidates that may not have been as visible to most, as they were to those actually in the political arena. While the current Council President at that time, Lawrence Bell, was backed by bread-king George Paterakis, his nemesis and most visible opponent Carl Stokes was backed by Baltimore Orioles franchise owner, Peter Angelos. Both probably less interested in seeing these candidates actually win than they were in holding them in a race of multiple blacks, in order to see their real candidate win – Martin O’Malley! However you also had persons such as Frank Conaway Sr., who unsuccessfully ran for Council President against Sheila Dixon, financially backing his wife Mary Conaway’s run for Mayor, with other perennial candidates such as Vincent Fullard, Charles Dugger, the late Robert Kaufman and others, picking up very little votes yet splitting up the electorate nonetheless.
The surge of African American vote participation and support of O’Malley came primarily from the support of Rawlings-Blake, who got her political powerhouse of a father, former state delegate and Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Pete Rawlings, to come out in support as well. Following their lead was the religious powerhouse known as Frank Reid, Pastor of Bethel AME, one of Baltimore’s largest black churches and home to political powerbrokers, Sheila Dixon, Joan Pratt, Catherine Pugh and Salima Siler Marriott. Therefore as the black community was being sold on the O’Malley bag of goods, others were being discredited such as Bell’s financial records and Stoke’s past educational background and qualifications. This led to a landslide victory for Martin O’Malley, the relatively once obscure and unknown candidate became the ‘great white hope’ for Baltimore overnight, and received more votes than Stokes and Bell combined!
Therefore people should not think anything would be different in this upcoming 2011 Mayoral race, as Rawlings-Blake may be publicly supported by her longtime friend O’Malley, yet do not be surprised if a white candidate such as a Councilman Bill Cole, whose campaign treasurer is Governor O’Malley’s brother, or Councilman Jim Kraft, doesn’t take on the established black candidates if they feel the black vote would be divided. Its basic and simple mathematics, that though the City is still slightly dominated by blacks in population, we still remain in the minority in most cases regarding turning out the vote here in Baltimore. Therefore what better way to ensure a victory, then to have plenty of powerhouse blacks vying for the same East and West Baltimore votes, while a white candidate simply swoops in and takes the entire white voting class and some of the uneducated or establishment blacks who could care less about race, along as its not against the white man!
Therefore as the fundraising goals of each candidate shall certainly be of interest to most observers that know it takes money to win elections, the other variables still remain to be seen as to how the outside financial world of politics plays a pivotal role in this race; as well as the more grassroots and labor union organizations that can turnout the people in numbers to ensure a candidates success? So as Mr. Cosby is serving up the laughs in January, to a room full of possibly unconcerned voters, the real laughter could come on Election night 2011, as the more concerned and affluent voters sit in a back room or hotel, laughing it up as they may have just bought themselves back into power down in City Hall?
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