Democratic contest for Baltimore mayor tops primary race

1010 WINS Newsroom
June 02, 2020 - 8:41 am

FILE - This file photo combo shows, from left, Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young, Sheila Dixon, Thiru Vignarajah, Mary Miller and Brandon Scott. Maryland residents are going to the polls and returning mail-in ballots for the state’s primary, and the highest-profile race Tuesday, June 2, 2020, is the Democratic contest to be the nominee for Baltimore’s mayor. (AP Photo/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore voters are looking for a leader who can rein in crime, address poverty and restore trust in local government in their mayoral election, the highest-profile contest on Maryland's ballots Tuesday.

The winner of the city's crowded Democratic primary, featuring 20 candidates, will likely become mayor. Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-1 in the state's largest city, making November’s mayoral general election mostly a formality.

Statewide, the election that also includes presidential and congressional primaries is being conducted mostly by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections officials allowed six in-person voting centers in Baltimore over concerns that ballots were not arriving in the mail as scheduled.

Baltimore's mayoral election comes a year after City Hall was raided as part of a public corruption scandal that resulted in the resignation of then-Mayor Catherine Pugh. She was sentenced in February to three years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges stemming from lucrative bulk sales of her self-published children’s books.

The Democratic front-runners are former Mayor Sheila Dixon, City Council President Brandon Scott, former Maryland Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and former U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Mary Miller.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who automatically ascended to the job after Pugh’s resignation, is also asking voters to give him four more years but has admitted that his campaign was hampered by the amount of time he has had to focus on the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday’s outcome will ultimately be a referendum on Baltimore’s political class. Miller and Vignarajah have held no jobs at City Hall unlike Scott and Dixon, who is again trying to make a political comeback after being convicted a decade ago of misappropriating gift cards for the poor while in office. Her first attempt failed in a primary loss to Pugh in 2016.

On the Republican side, seven people want the job.

Whoever emerges victorious in November will have to address low-income neighborhoods in need of investment, population exodus, failing and outdated public schools, and a homicide rate that not even the coronavirus pandemic has been able to slow.

The city set an annual per-capita homicide rate in 2019 with 348 killings. It is on pace this year to match that rate.

Statewide, Maryland voters also will be choosing nominees for U.S. president and the state’s eight U.S. House seats. Democrats hold a 7-1 advantage in Maryland U.S. House seats.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat who won a special general election in April to serve the rest of the term of the late Elijah Cummings, will be running to be his party’s nominee for a full term in a crowded primary for the seat that includes a large portion of Baltimore.