For the first time in more than a decade, a race is shaping up between an incumbent lawmaker and two challengers in one of the largest and most diverse Council districts in the city.
Unlike her last election in 1997, Ellicott Council Member Barbara Miller-Williams faces more than token opposition from two newcomers, businesswoman Vera M. Martin, and Valerie E. Ruff, chief of staff for Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
The Ellicott District encompasses much of the predominantly African-American near East Side to downtown, and the racially- and ethnically-mixed lower West Side.
An economically diverse district as well, its residents include those who live in public housing to the upscale Waterfront Village.
Mrs. Miller-Williams, a police officer on leave, is running on her record as Ellicott Council member for four years.
Among the accomplishments to which she points is her support for the continuing construction of new subsidized, single-family home development in the district's near East Side neighborhoods that was first launched by her predecessor, Council President James W. Pitts.
Mrs. Miller-Williams also cites a record number of demolitions and new housing initiatives on Prospect Street on the city's lower West Side.
Ms. Martin, a longtime realtor in the city, also has campaigned on a platform of creating more affordable housing in the district. Among her major campaign focuses are police protection and adopting a comprehensive police plan.
"Our district is one of the largest and poorest in the city with the highest unemployment rate," she says in her campaign literature. "Unemployment breeds crimes such as robbery, burglary, prostitution, etc., as well as drug use and related crimes."
Ms. Martin is also an advocate of more Community Oriented Policing Stations (COPS), such as those on Allen Street in Allentown and at 1490 Enterprises on Jefferson Avenue.
Ms. Ruff, a former legislative assistant on the staff of the Common Council, targets job development in her campaign. Both she and Ms. Martin have attacked Mrs. Miller-Williams' record on delivering basic services.
"The incumbent has not been accessible and lacks the vision to help the district. There is a lack of small development in the heart of the black community and poor service delivery," said Ms. Ruff.
Ms. Martin, in campaign advertisements, has charged that Mrs. Miller-Williams has a spotty record on producing significant legislation in the Council.
Mrs. Miller-Williams, the endorsed Democratic and Liberal Party candidate, is also endorsed by the Grassroots political organization. She expects to have spent $7,500 on her campaign.
Ms. Martin, backed by Pitts' Presidents Club, anticipates she will have spent between $10,000 and $12,000.
Ms. Ruff is endorsed by Arthur O. Eve Jr.'s Unity Coalition, and anticipated raising at least $10,000 for her campaign.