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Campaign Beat

The Invisible Man

Incumbent’s GOP Challenger in the 11th District Looks Like a No-Show

Frank Klein
Last Call: Republican Candidate for City Council James Carlos Quigley owns this boarded-up building on Portland Street, which bears the name "Quigley's Irish Pub" on its mailbox.

By Van Smith | Posted 10/6/2004

James Carlos Quigley, a Republican who’s running against two-term City Councilman Keiffer Jackson Mitchell Jr. (D-4th) in the new 11th District, is a hard man to find these days. The phone number he gave to the Baltimore City Board of Elections—the same number listed to his name in the phone book—is disconnected. The address he gave to the Board of Elections—633 Portland St., in Ridgley’s Delight—is a derelict commercial building (a former bar), and neighbors say they don’t believe Quigley, or anyone else, could live there.

A note left in a door of the property—which was locked on the night of Sept. 28, then unlocked and ajar the next morning, then locked again that evening—elicited no response from Quigley, although someone apparently retrieved it. A message sent to Quigley’s e-mail address, also on file at the Board of Elections, went unanswered. Another street address for Quigley in Columbia, obtained from his Motor Vehicle Administration records, led to a phone number where no one answered; a message left there got no return call.

The chairman of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee, Don Farber, says he knows neither Quigley nor how to get in contact with him, and neither does the group’s treasurer, Nick Fesenden. The only clue about Quigley’s possible whereabouts came from GOP central committee member Victor Clark, who recalled that Quigley told him recently that he’s a military reservist who expected to get called up for active duty.

“I think that’s what probably happened to him,” Clark surmises, “because he was just about 90 percent sure when he talked to me about it that he might get called up with his unit to go to Iraq.” He adds, “it might make a good human-interest story, that the only reason that Mitchell’s winning is because the guy who’s running against him is over there fighting for the country.”

If that’s so, it must have happened in the very recent past, because neighbors say they saw Quigley at his Portland Street property during September.

Mitchell, however, says that he ran into Quigley one morning within the last few weeks at the 7-11 on Hanover Street in South Baltimore. “We talked about city issues, the national election—had our own mini candidates’ forum without an audience,” says Mitchell, who has served on the City Council since 1995. The newly drawn 11th District that both candidates hope to represent includes downtown, Bolton Hill, Reservoir Hill, and parts of west and southwest Baltimore. “He seemed committed. And he said he expects to get called up for active duty, either in the Maryland National Guard or the military reserves, sometime shortly after the election.” (The Maryland National Guard has no record of his service, and records from the Defense Manpower Data Center, which is the clearing house for information about individuals’ military status, indicate that he is not in the military.)

“He’s a nice guy,” Mitchell says. “He’s serving his country, a small-business owner. I think he owns a bar. He had the [architectural] plans with him when we talked.”

That bar would be “Quigley’s Irish Pub,” the name imprinted on the mailbox at the derelict property at 633 Portland St. Property records reflect that he purchased the property from Strike Three Lounge Inc. for $140,000 in August 2003, but it’s clearly not a going concern. It has no windows, and rain flowed freely into roofless sections of the structure during a recent stormy night. Debris from the building—pieces of stone and wood, chunks of brick and mortar—were strewn on the sidewalk. Neighbors in Ridgley’s Delight say Quigley has been working on the place for more than three years.

“He’s been renovating the bar for years,” says Sharon Reuter, vice president of the Ridgley’s Delight Association. “It’s been kind of slow going. I don’t know where he’s living, but he’s not living there. I was under the impression he’s been living with his mother out in the county somewhere. I’ve never seen him campaigning—in fact, I’ve hardly seen him at all. He’s argumentative. I think he means well, he’s just got a bad delivery. He’s pissed everybody off around here. He had a Dumpster blocking the whole street for six or nine months at one point. I know neighbors have called and complained to city inspectors.”

“You can tell Mr. Mitchell he doesn’t have anything to worry about,” quips the bartender at Sliders Bar and Grill on a recent rainy night. Before issuing this droll broadside, though, he had to wait for his dozen or so patrons to stop laughing when Quigley’s campaign was mentioned. The very idea of Quigley—a regular at drinking establishments near Camden Yards, and therefore known to everyone at Sliders that night—running for public office sends the whole place into fits. Questions about Quigley brought similar responses (along with a handful of uncomplimentary and unconfirmable anecdotes) from the staff at Pickles Pub, another of Quigley’s haunts a few doors down on Washington Boulevard.

The public record on Quigley reveals an issue that might concern some voters: a 1998 drunken-driving charge to which he pleaded guilty and received one year of probation. In addition, he’s had 19 other motor-vehicle violations since 1994, everything from running red lights, driving on a suspended license, and driving without a license or without valid tags, to driving without wearing a seat belt and speeding. In 2004 alone he had five violations, and he failed to either pay the fine or show up for a scheduled court date for three of them; thus, his drivers’ license has been suspended since March.

In addition, the fact that he apparently doesn’t live at the address he gave to the city Board of Elections is a problem. Hakima Shaulis, an elections board management associate who handles candidacy procedures, says candidates for City Council “have to live in the district where they’re running for a year preceding the general election.”

The bartender at Sliders suggests that Mitchell “can save his campaign cash” during this contest, which increasingly appears to be a no-contest. But Mitchell says he takes Quigley’s run seriously.

“I grew up in a political family,” he says. “So whenever there’s another name on the ballot, I know you run as if you’re losing.”

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