By Alicia Reynolds
Baltimore Watchdog writer
Running for mayor of Baltimore as a Republican may seem like an uphill fight to most voters, but Alan Walden is not fazed. He says he loves this city and he will stop at nothing to win.
Walden – a spirited 80-year-old man who was born and raised in Brooklyn but who has lived in Baltimore since 1988 – says the city has not benefited from decades of Democratic rule, adding that he hopes voters will finally give the GOP a chance at the city’s top job.
He describes himself as a “constitutionally conservative Republican,” and he says politics should not be a life-long career.
“I believe that it (politics) should be a service to the community,” said Walden, an Army veteran and a former news analyst for WBAL-TV in Baltimore. “What the past mayors have done has not worked for Baltimore.”
Walden believes that he can help change the image of the city. While the odds are not in his favor, he still believes and has hope he can win the election on Nov. 8.
“I don’t believe in the odds. Anything can happen, especially in a volatile election,” Walden said. “I don’t give up. I got in the race to win.”
Walden faces a big financial disadvantage against Democratic mayoral candidate Catherine Pugh.
According to campaign finance reports, Pugh has more than $300,000 on hand in her campaign war chest while Walden has $3,700.
In addition, Democrats outnumber Republicans in Baltimore by nine to one.
That doesn’t matter much to Walden’s supporters, though, who say that he has the qualities and policy proposals that will make him appeal to voters.
“His background and knowledge is deep and expansive,” said campaign manager Joe Nattans. “He can talk about any topic. He is very determined to fix things. He can help the city.”
Three of the issues that Walden plans to address if he is elected mayor are police relations, fixing Baltimore’s image and improving city schools.
Walden has two proposals to reform the city police department. First, the Republican has called for more community policing in which the same officers are assigned to patrol a neighborhood so that they get to know the community and the neighborhood gets to know them. Second, Walden said police officials should hold regular meetings with community members to find ways to make the community better.
Walden said the city should work with local businesses to turn around Baltimore’s image as an unsafe city.
“We can do this by having the Baltimore Business Bureau and Visit Baltimore come together,” Walden said. “We want people to say Baltimore is the place to be.”
In addition, Walden said the schools must broaden the subjects they teach so that they can reach all types of students, including those who will not go to college.
“I want to change the way we teach and what we teach,” Walden said. “We need more vocational work. We need people who know how to work with their hands.”
Besides the fact that Walden is a Republican in a heavily Democratic city, some political analysts do not believe he has enough experience to run a local government.
“I don’t think he really has a lot of experience in the political background,” said Jack Frutchman, a political science professor at Towson University. “He is really smart and he has a great voice. He has campaigned as much as the Democrats. He is a great radio announcer but he doesn’t have the qualifications for running for a big city.”
Republicans are trying to remain optimistic about the campaign.
“I think he is a decent individual and I think he is ready to be mayor,” said Glenn Bushel, the chairman of the Baltimore Republican Central Committee. “He is known as a radio personality and he is very trustworthy.”
In addition to his years at WBAL, Walden was a news anchor for radio stations in Cleveland, Boston, New York and Baltimore. He was also the chief radio correspondent for NBC News.
He has a son, daughter and granddaughter, and he is the president of Cross Keys Maintenance Corp. He is a founder and chairman-emeritus of the Friends of Fort McHenry; he serves on the Board of Directors for Historic Ships in Baltimore; and he is the senior vice president of the Baltimore Council of the Navy League of the United States.
He has also served on the boards of the Living Classrooms Foundation and the B & O Railroad Museum and was, at one time, president of the Maryland Press Club.
Walden said he is different from Pugh because he represents change. Baltimore has been under Democratic influence for decades, Walden said, adding that the city needs new perspectives.
“She is not going to be as direct and forceful on issues as I will be,” Walden said. “Politicians should be changed like a baby’s diaper. The crap can’t just stay there.”