- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Martin O’Malley won twice as many votes as his closest Democratic primary challenger yesterdayand advanced to a general election that, because of unusual circumstances, won’t be held for 14 months.

With 194 of 316 precincts reporting, Mr. O’Malley won 67 percent of the vote to 32 percent for opponent Andrey Bundley — 34,822 to 16,454.

Baltimore made national headlines when a scheduling quirk put the city’s primary 14 months before the general election, allowing some 16-year-olds the chance to vote.

The city elections office said that by 7 p.m., voter turnout was about 30 percent; the average turnout is between 30 percent and 35 percent.

The office had recorded 86,686 votes at 7 p.m. There are about 261,000 registered Democrats and Republicans.

Mr. O’Malley, 40, ran against first-time and obscure candidates. Mr. Bundley is a high school principal who was making his first run for political office.

Social activist Robert Kaufman took about 1 percent, or 400 votes, with 61 percent of precincts reporting. Marvin Jones garnered 212 votes, and Charles Smith, a retired Bethlehem Steel worker, received 170 votes.

Elbert Henderson, a political unknown, ran as the lone Republican.

The primary is extremely important in Baltimore. Eighty-seven percent of registered voters are Democrats and the Democratic primary winner almost always prevails in the general election.

In downtown Baltimore, volunteers for the candidates greatly outnumbered the few voters who trickled into polling stations early in the day.

“I was so shocked there weren’t any people there,” said Valeria Tunctson, who said she voted for Andrey Bundley, a high school principal challenging Mayor Martin O’Malley. “I got in and got out. I haven’t seen it like that in a long time.”

Mr. O’Malley, who was shaking hands and talking to voters near the polls at the Enoch Pratt Library downtown, said the low turnout could be the result of the progress the city had made during his time in office.

“There’s much more optimism today. We were a very worried city four years ago,” Mr. O’Malley said. “This year we’re all business. … People are believing in each other and the city.”

Frank Wright, who said he was going to vote for Mr. O’Malley, said the apathy might be due to the mayor’s popularity and the fact that yesterday’s primary wasn’t associated with a national election.

“I think people see O’Malley winning in a landslide,” said Mr. Wright, 58, a lawyer. “I don’t think any of his challengers have stirred up any excitement, broadly.”

Mr. Bundley’s potentially uphill task is what captured Miss Tunctson’s interest.

“I go for underdogs,” said Miss Tunctson, 53, who works at a medical insurance company.

Mr. Bundley spent the days leading up to the election criticizing what he called a mismanaged, overaggressive police department. He appeared in a TV ad standing in handcuffs in front of a police cruiser. Mr. Bundley was briefly handcuffed and issued a criminal citation for putting campaign leaflets on cars in July.

Mr. O’Malley, who raised $2.8 million to Mr. Bundley’s $126,000, said Monday: “I think the voters are smart, and whatever ads are run in these closing hours, I think the people of Baltimore recognize progress when they see it.”

The 14-month gap between primary and general election occurred after city voters decided in a referendum to synchronize Baltimore’s general election with the U.S. presidential race. But only the General Assembly can move the primary date, and the legislature failed to do so. The general election is set for Nov. 2, 2004.

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