Baltimore Mayor To Bow Out

Mayor Kurt Schmoke won't be seeking a fourth term.

"Is this the end of my political career? I don't know. I still have an interest in pursuing the U.S. Senate if that were ever available," said Schmoke, 49.

However, Schmoke emphasized that he intends to work until his third term ends on Dec. 7, 1999.

"I want to emphasize to people that as of this moment, I am a lame duck, not a dead duck," Schmoke told reporters.

Schmoke, the city's first elected black mayor, is credited with rebuilding several downtrodden neighborhoods, improving health care for the poor and pushing growth at the Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which has become a major tourist attraction.

But a bid in the early 1990s to privatize education at nine city schools ended in failure. Per-pupil costs rose and test scores fell, and last year the state took over management of the schools.

The mayor has also drawn fire for Baltimore's persistent crime problem.

City Council president Lawrence Bell, who often was at odds with Schmoke, nonetheless praised the mayor's work.

Bell said "all of the citizens of Baltimore, owe a debt of gratitude to Mayor Schmoke for dedicating the last 16 years of his life to public service."

Although another career in politics remains a possibility, Schmoke said today that "right now my focus is on some private sector options."

Last week, The (Baltimore) Sun reported that after leaving the mayor's office, Schmoke was considering resuming work as a lawyer, becoming a lobbyist or working for a nonprofit organization.

Schmoke, a Democrat, would be unlikely to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes in 2000, but could jump into the race if Sarbanes chose not to run for a fifth term. Maryland's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski, was re-elected last month.

Schmoke is a graduate of Yale and Harvard who attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar. He worked in the White House during the Carter administration and was an assistant U.S. attorney for Maryland before he was elected state's attorney for Baltimore in 1982 in his first try for public office.

He then went on to win the mayor's office five years later after he defeated incumbent Mayor Clarence Du Burns in the primary. As council president, Burns automatically assumed the mayor's post, becoming the city's first black mayor, when former Mayor William D. Schaefer was inaugurated governor of Maryland in January 1987.