Nicholas D'Adamo Jr. is still doing things the old way--answering constituent calls (up to 60 each day, he says), fighting for money for his district, trying to get a handle on crime.
"I'm a nuts and bolts councilperson from the old school," says D'Adamo, a five-term city councilman trying to win a second term representing the redrawn 2nd District, which covers an area from the edge of his old Highlandtown stomping grounds to Taylor Heights in the city's northeast corner. "I'm a social worker, that's basically what we are."
An interesting choice of words, since D'Adamo's opponent in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, Lawrence Jamaal Moses, is literally a social worker.
Moses grew up in Cherry Hill, graduating from Morgan State University with a bachelor's degree in political science before going back for his master's in social work. He is currently the director of the Office of Community Initiatives, a division of the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Moses took the job, he says, after being "asked to leave" his city government job in January by incoming Mayor Sheila Dixon. He works for Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"The reason why I'm running is because prior to this election I worked for seven years under Mayor O'Malley as director of the Mayor's Office for Children, Youth, and Families," Moses says. "We saw some real strong progress in terms of youth-violence reductions. My whole reason for running is I want to see some of those projects continue."
The most prominent of those projects, Baltimore Rising, got a lot of press in 2003, with Moses quoted regularly in the Afro-American and The Sun. The project--a multimillion-dollar, grant-driven effort to mentor and change the lives of young people who had missed a lot of school, had been in trouble with the law, or were children of drug-addicted or incarcerated parents--took on more than 3,000 kids and achieved a "63 percent reduction in violent and delinquent behavior," Moses says.
Then it all seemed to fade away. The project's web site has not been updated since 2003.
Moses says that was because of funding trouble. "We had a full-time person that was dedicated to the web site," he says. "Unfortunately, some funding was lost . . . and we choose to bring on two caseworkers" instead of maintaining the web site.
Moses says that a 2005 study found the program very effective, but when asked for a copy of it he refers a reporter to his campaign treasurer, Mark Bird, who does not return a phone call.
In April 2004 Moses wrote a character reference for a 13-year-old girl on trial for helping beat 12-year-old Nicole Ashley Townes into a coma at a birthday party. The girl, whose name was withheld because she is a juvenile, answered phones at Moses' office as a volunteer. According to an article in The Sun, Moses' letter said the girl was "a joy to be around. She was extremely helpful" and "brought exuberance to the office with her youthfulness."
Moses has not had to file any campaign-finance disclosure forms yet, so it is not clear who is funding his campaign. He says his friends will chip in and that he will, too. He says he plans to spend around $20,000.
Lest anyone get the idea that Moses is running against D'Adamo because Gov. O'Malley did not appreciate D'Adamo's support for former governor Robert Ehrlich--banish the thought. Moses says he has only a "professional relationship" with O'Malley.
"I'm not running against Nick, I'm running for an agenda, which is basically doing what I'm doing for the last 30 years, service," Moses says. "This [campaign] is allowing me to continue to do that."
D'Adamo, for his part, is trying to figure out who he is running against. "Have you heard of him?" he asks a reporter.
D'Adamo has distinguished himself on the council principally as a detail-oriented, somewhat conservative voice for law and order. He advocates more police officers (and served as the Maryland State Police's director of community outreach during the Ehrlich administration).
"Ehrlich was a personal friend of mine for 20 years," D'Adamo says. "I believe in helping friends. It's family, friends, and politics, in that order."
He also thinks the council should be given some oversight of city contracts: "I think we should do what they do in Baltimore County, where contracts come before the council. So you'd have 14 people looking at it instead of five people who are controlled by the mayor" (as is the current case on the Baltimore City Board of Public Works). D'Adamo also makes the eyebrow-raising suggestion that "every council member should have a million dollars to spend on programs they feel are needed in their districts," without oversight. That might aid in constituent service.
D'Adamo's campaign financing is notable for one thing: an almost complete absence of donors. Although in years past he got a fair amount from small businesses in the district, including from some vending-machine companies and pawnbrokers, since 2005 he has received just two donations: one from the John Paterakis-controlled Harbor East Hotel LLC; the other from Help1 LLC, which appears to be a defunct corporation founded by a Bel Air doctor. The two total $2,500.
Most of the money in D'Adamo's campaign comes from D'Adamo--or rather, from previous donations to his campaigns that he did not spend or donate to other campaigns. He says his campaign war chest has about $140,000 in it today.
"Every year I'm fortunate where I have money left over," D'Adamo says. "I just keep it in an account and let it grow interest."