A white city councilman won the Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, defeating two black candidates in this predominantly black city by promising to clean the streets of open-air drug markets and to have zero tolerance for crime.
Martin O'Malley won the primary with 61,219 votes, or 53%.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 9 to 1, he is expected to easily defeat his GOP opponent in the general election in November. If he does win, O'Malley at 36 would be the youngest mayor in the city's history.
"From the first day of this primary campaign to tonight, I never once doubted the fairness, the goodness and the intelligence of the people of Baltimore city," O'Malley told supporters gathered at a children's museum.
O'Malley defeated former Councilman Carl Stokes, who had 32,069 votes, or 28%, and Council President Lawrence Bell, who raised the most money but finished with 19,611 votes, or 17%.
O'Malley had to shake off criticism that he was seeking to split the black vote when he entered the race two weeks before the filing deadline. Race is a key factor in mayoral politics in Baltimore, where 65% of the population is black.
O'Malley, however, won the backing of several key black lawmakers and church leaders, as well as influential white politicians, such as former mayor and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
In November, O'Malley will face GOP candidate David Tufaro, a developer who easily defeated five little-known candidates. Tufaro won with 23,252 votes, or 89%.
O'Malley hammered away at crime, promoting a zero-tolerance policing strategy in which all crimes would be aggressively pursued. Bell supported zero tolerance, but Stokes criticized the strategy as targeting minorities.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke decided not to run for a fourth term.