Council president race shows clear cut winner amongst potential council candidates

Poll shows Cohen with widespread support, more than triple that of his colleagues

In what can only be described as a poll of interest taken across several social media outlets, including in several group pages on Facebook; the potential four person race for Baltimore City Council President next year, with all four members currently elected to the City Council, shows how one member dominated the rest of the field.

Currently, the City Council President, Brandon Scott, has shown more interest in running for Mayor in next year’s democratic primaries, than the citywide seat he recently obtained weeks ago. The previous council president, and current Mayor, Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, also has shown a willingness to run for mayor instead of the job he has held since 2010 – something that goes contrary to what he promised city residents when first assuming the position of mayor after Mayor Catherine Pugh went out on indefinite leave due to illness.

However, following Pugh’s resignation – which forced Young to assume the mayor’s seat permanently due to the city charter – and Scott’s defeat of Young-backed council president candidate Councilwoman Sharon Green-Middleton; it appears as if Mayor Young likes the ring of that title rather than the one he has mastered over the past decade. But Scott has had his eyes on the mayor’s seat for at least the past eight years, when he sat down with me to discuss his plans for the future, in which he announced back then that he would be running for Mayor in 2020 – and this was in a 2011 article.

So, with the strong possibility of both Scott and Young vying for the city’s top spot, that would leave a vacancy in the city’s second most powerful position, the council president’s office. And while nobody has filed or even announced their intentions on running for the citywide position, there has been quite a bit of movement and chatter surrounding four potential candidates for the seat – each of whom currently serve on the Baltimore City Council.

The first is the former interim council president during the period of time that Mayor Pugh was out on leave and Mr. Young was temporarily occupying the mayor’s seat. Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, the third term councilwoman representing the city’s 6th council district in Northwest Baltimore and current council vice-president; lost her bid for the position a few weeks prior when Scott was able to round up more votes from their council colleagues than she.

However, after running her daughter for the citywide post of Clerk of the Circuit Court in last year’s race, though unsuccessful, it did what it was intented to do, help put the Middleton name on the ballot for voters across the city to become familiar with it. The current Chair of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development committee is getting up in age and appears less content on just serving on the council, and has reportedly began utilizing her husband’s powerful union connections to begin mounting a possible citywide bid next year.

However, she may not be the only African American woman in the race, as rumors have swirled for weeks that first-term councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D-13) has been making calls to donors and weighing the option of running for the seat herself. A product of the same East Baltimore democratic club as Scott, BEST Democratic Club, her actions of even hinting towards a citywide run for the seat all but solidifies the fact that Scott is running for Mayor next year, otherwise Sneed would never consider running against her longtime friend and colleague.

And it appears Councilman Eric Costello wouldn’t mind seeing both Middleton and Sneed in the race, possibly splitting up the African American vote, while he makes his own bid for the council presidency. Costello, a strong and close ally to Mayor Young, has the most money of the three and would likely be on the ticket with Young, which the Mayor let slip a few months ago in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. And while the second term councilman has yet to reveal his intentions on running for the seat, or running for re-election in the 11th council district; he has amassed a sizeable war chest and already hired over a half a dozen staffers which would be strange for someone running for re-election in a seat he can sleepwalk to victory.

However, according to our poll, and the chatter starting to get louder by the day, it appears that another candidate from the city council has the best chance of winning the seat. First district councilman Zeke Cohen has dominated the polls taken regarding the likelihood of these four candidates vying for the same citywide seat. The first-term councilman and chair of the council’s Education Committee received almost three times more votes than his nearest competitor, Councilwoman Sneed, and has a healthy war chest that he can easily triple over the next few months.

One of the most vocal and visible members of the city council, Cohen has galvanized a following of admirers that was reflective of the numbers shown by the recent poll. Receiving roughly 40% of the votes cast, Cohen all but seems to have his future in front of him; whether it be running for an easy re-election bid in his southeast district or running citywide for council president. Of the close to 150 votes cast, Cohen received 59-votes, with the next best candidate being “none of the above” with 31-votes. Mrs. Sneed received 20-votes with Mrs. Middleton receiving 6-votes, five votes being cast for those who are undecided and Mr. Costello receiving one vote.

In fact, Councilman Costello received more ‘Never Costello’ votes (29-votes) than Sharon and Shannon received combined, an answer created by union director Mark McLaurin on Facebook, which was later taken down as a choice. However, while this poll was an interesting yet far from scientific exercise in what may be to come in the coming months, it did show an interesting look into what the informed voters on social media have to say.

And while it’s likely that Councilman Costello would partner up with Mayor Young if they both decided to run for Mayor and Council President; it’s also likely that Councilwoman Sneed would team up with mayoral candidate Scott, which would make for an interesting match-up. There is also a possibility that Cohen could team up with a strong mayoral candidate, especially if someone like Kweisi Mfume or former Mayor Sheila Dixon entered the race; or he could run an independent campaign having enough institutional knowledge to still be considered an insider, but not being entrenched like Middleton or Young, and able to show that he can be the “outsider” Baltimore needs to see change come about.

In a perfect world, this scenario would make for a wonderful electoral challenge that would give Baltimore voters a cast of qualified candidates to choose from next April. In a less than perfect world, we will get a rubber stamped, status quo candidate that doesn’t check the mayoral administration and goes along to get along with whoever becomes Baltimore’s next commander-in-chief. Let’s pray for the perfect world scenario!


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