- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

BALTIMORE — Residents gathered in some of the city’s notoriously quirky diners and coffee shops yesterday to crow that the elections Tuesday proved they still live in the nexus of Maryland political power.

“It shows again that Baltimoreans are on top,” said Bernie Shephard, a youth sports league director having breakfast at Cafe Hun, a kitschy restaurant in the working-class Hampden neighborhood.

Mr. Shephard had good reason to boast: Mayor Martin O’Malley became governor-elect, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin joined fellow Baltimore Democrat Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat raised in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood, is expected to be the next House speaker. Mrs. Pelosi learned politics at the knee of her father, Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr., a Democrat with more than 20 straight terms in politics, in including jobs as Baltimore mayor and U.S. congressman.

“It’s great [for] someone from our neighborhood, who played on our steps with all the other little girls, to progress like this,” said John Pente, who has lived in the same Baltimore row house for each of his 96 years.

Mr. Shephard also acknowledged the growing political influence of Montgomery County, the state’s wealthiest and most populous county, but said the county’s connection to the District will always alienate its politicians from the rest of Maryland.

Fran Vota, 82, of Little Italy, agreed.

“They’re not going to beat us, no way” Mrs. Vota said while leaving St. Leo’s Catholic Church where she was making sandwiches for the homeless.

Historically the hub of state politics, Baltimore is the home or birthplace of seven of the past 12 Maryland governors and five of the state’s past 10 U.S. senators.

But the city’s political strength increasingly has been eroded by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, home to more than a third of registered Maryland Democrats, who dominate state politics.

The election Tuesday sent two Democrats from Montgomery County to statewide offices: Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler rose to attorney general and Delegate Peter Franchot became comptroller.

Mr. Franchot replaces Baltimore’s most iconic politician, William Donald Schaefer, a former governor and the Baltimore mayor who in the early 1980s led the city to an urban renaissance. He lost in the September primary.

Mr. Gansler and Mr. Franchot are just the second and third Montgomery County officials to win statewide offices. Blair Lee III, a Democrat from Silver Spring, was the first Montgomery County official to win a statewide office when he was elected lieutenant governor in the early 1970s.

They and Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony G. Brown, of Prince George’s County, will hold three of the six statewide offices. The other three belong to Mr. O’Malley, Mr. Cardin and Miss Mikulski, all Baltimore Democrats.

Still, some Baltimoreans quietly concede that the sweep Tuesday might be a last stand in the city’s political legacy.

“Baltimore is losing its clout,” said Mary Ann Campannella, 65, president of the Little Italy Community Organization. “It saddens me because Baltimore was the political power in Maryland.”

Mrs. Campannella, who was wearing pajamas and sipping coffee as she held court yesterday morning at a neighborhood diner called Gia’s/Iggy’s, said Montgomery and Prince George’s are home to a younger generation of state leaders and voters there are better educated and more politically sophisticated than those in Baltimore.

“Our school system proves it,” she said. “Graduates can’t fill out a job application. How are they going to know who to vote for.”

She said Mr. O’Malley is a Montgomery County native “on loan” to Baltimore and noted that Mr. Cardin is 64 and Miss Mikulski is 70.

“I’m racking my brain to think of who is the next strong [leader] in the city,” Mrs. Campannella said. “I’m coming up blank.”

Don Kennedy, manager of Germano’s restaurant in Little Italy, sounded the same melancholy note.

“Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin have been in the system a long time,” said Mr. Kennedy, 51. “I don’t see the new crop coming up.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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