Anyone peeking in the window at Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's campaign headquarters on Howard Street Friday morning could be forgiven for thinking the mayor's race had ended.
The view included stacks of taped-up moving boxes, cleared desks and a freshly shampooed carpet. None of the mayor's black-and-yellow campaign signs hung on walls. The lights were off.
"This is my least favorite part of the campaign," campaign manager Travis Tazelaar said.
Technically, of course, Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and other Democrats who won the party primary on Tuesday face opponents in the Nov. 8 general election.
But in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 9 to 1, where Democrats hold the mayor's office and all 15 seats on the City Council, and where voters haven't elected a Republican mayor since the 1960s, the odds of any of the challengers delivering a knockout punch — or even raising a black eye — are long.
None of the 10 Republican candidates are known in city power circles, and none have given any sign that they have the resources to introduce themselves to voters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.
The general election "is going to be very, very boring," said Donald F. Norris, the chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "All it will do is ratify the result of the primary."
The Republicans "will all lose" promised Norris, who pointed to the voter registration figures in Baltimore: 292,000 Democrats and 32,000 Republicans.
Tazelaar and other Democratic operatives insisted last week that they would treat the general election like any other contest, and would not take a single vote for granted.
"We intend to run a campaign," Tazelaar said. But when asked to name the Republican mayoral candidate, he paused and said: "I honestly don't know."
His confusion is understandable. As of Friday afternoon, the two candidates for the GOP mayoral nomination remained locked in a dead heat: Alfred Griffin led Vicki Ann Harding by 21 votes, with absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted.
Elections officials have until next Friday to certify the results of the primary.
Griffin, 38, claims his mother's home on Greenmount Avenue as his residence in voter registration records. No campaign signs stood on the lawn; neighbors said they were unaware that he was running for mayor.
Griffin spent the end of last week ducking in and out of meetings for the international film festival he is organizing for October. He did not attend candidate forums during the primary campaign.
He said he decided to run for mayor to fix long-standing problems in the city.
"Every generation has a responsibility to the generation before and the generation behind it," he said. He spoke of chronic problems with the city school system: "I feel like it's my time to be responsible."
The other Republican candidate, Vicki Ann Harding, did not respond to emails.
She attended several candidate forums, and drew applause with a searing criticism of the city's public schools. As mayor, she said, she would "criminally indict" city schools CEO Andrés Alonso, Gov. Martin O'Malley, former state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, Rawlings-Blake and "their crew" for failing to improve the system.
Harding, 52, said she would also dismantle the Baltimore Development Corp., which she said was too cozy with billionaire developers. She railed against the city's business community and, in a departure from the Republican position, decried tax cuts for the wealthy.