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Race for Baltimore mayor gets crowded as Frank Conaway joins in

With City Hall as a backdrop, Frank M. Conaway Sr. declared at noon on Monday his candidacy for mayor in what is looking like a crowded Democratic primary race on Sept. 13.

Conaway, 78, a resident of Ashburton and the city’s clerk of Circuit Court for the past 12 years, said he plans to make job creation the chief focus of his campaign.

“Baltimore has fallen behind,” Conaway said, as nearly 30 supporters stood nearby, holding bright gold campaign signs. “I’m running to restore Baltimore to prominence. Baltimore was a place of opportunity. Baltmoreans made things… obviously, something went wrong in the second decade of this millennium.”

Conaway joins Otis M. Rolley, former city planning director, and Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III, a former city councilman and current executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, in the race.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has yet to file to run, but is raising money. City Councilman Carl Stokes has also said he plans to run.

In his brief remarks, Conaway highlighted several large developments and redevelopments currently planned for the city as examples of over-stretching resources. Those developments include the Superblock and Westport.

He also said the city’s high property tax rate, the steepest in Maryland, is also “a great cancer eating away at our neighborhoods.” The city’s huge inventory of vacant, blighted houses, that Conaway said totals 47,000, is also a crisis he would tackle as mayor.

“I would re-establish the $1 house program,” he said, of an initiative by the late former mayor, William Donald Schaefer, to sell vacant properties for $1 to urban homesteaders who would renovate them.

Conaway also said he planned to make city government more open by operating out of a mayor’s office “with no door.”

He took a swipe at Rawlings-Blake by referring to her as “elitist” and saying, “we have a mayor who, for some reason, keeps shooting herself in the foot.”

Conaway’s wife, Mary, is the city’s registrar of wills and his daughter, Belinda, is a member of the City Council. His son, Frank Jr., is a state delegate who represents the 40th District. Conaway, too, served in the House of Delegates from 1971 to 1975 and then again from 1979 to 1983.

“We are a public service family,” he said, to cheers. “We live it. We dream it. We hope. And we will do our best for the citizens of Baltimore.”

Conaway pledged to begin to hold small meetings with voters around town and in places like Lexington Market.

“I would like to have tea and crumpets in neighborhood houses to let people know I am one of them,” he said.