- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Black political strategists quietly are organizing an effort to find the best black candidate to challenge Mayor Martin O’Malley.

Raymond Haysbert, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, invited Mr. O’Malley’s six leading rivals to a private dinner Wednesday to develop strategies to defeat the popular incumbent.

“It wasn’t about who was going to be the best mayor or that we didn’t already have the best mayor,” said Mr. Haysbert, campaign treasurer for state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who is considering challenging Mr. O’Malley. “It was more of a meeting on ‘What does a person need to win?’ Name recognition, raising money, positive reputation.”

But others said the purpose was clearly to find a challenger in the primary, which is less than four months away. In the 1999 Democratic primary, Mr. O’Malley split the black vote with two black candidates, a situation many at the meeting are hoping to avoid this year.

“The discussion focused on a candidate for mayor,” said John Pica Jr., a former state senator and a lobbyist for Peter Angelos, whom Mrs. Conway invited. “The individuals there were looking for the most formidable candidate. All the names discussed were African-American.”

A spokesman said Mr. O’Malley hadn’t heard of the meeting and didn’t want to comment until he had more information.

Mr. Haysbert’s guest list included nearly everyone who had expressed interest in running against Mr. O’Malley.

Some said the meeting was held to garner support for Mrs. Conway, but the state senator said she had nothing to do with its organization.

Several political insiders predict that Mrs. Conway, who supported Mr. O’Malley in 1999, might announce this week whether she will run.

But Mr. Haysbert said such rumors are false. Mrs. Conway said she still is “considering” a run.

The meeting included Walbrook High School Principal Andrey Bundley, the only person to file to run for mayor; Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway; and State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy.

Carl Stokes, who had said he planned to run and who was one of the two black candidates to lose to Mr. O’Malley in 1999, sent a representative to the meeting.

Sources said Miss Jessamy said she wouldn’t run.

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