After more than 30-years of public service, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke did what many believe was impossible, she finally lost to an opponent and his name was father time. Having decided to call it quits after a storied career in local politics, Clarke announced her decision in a letter to family, friends and supporters earlier this year, one year before the April 28, 2020 primary elections.
She said at the time that she made the decision to announce her retirement early in order to give those running to succeed her plenty of time to meet the voters of the 14th council district, and for the voters to have enough time to get familiar with those looking to replace her. At the time, when asked by reporters and supporters regarding who she planned to support to replace her, Clarke said that she would “trust the voters” to elect the right person for the job.
However, it seems as if the once neutral Clarke has now decided to throw her support behind her longtime protégé, community activist Odette Ramos. In an email that was sent out by both Clarke and the Ramos campaign, the 78-year old democrat said that she can testify that Mrs. Ramos is “ready and able, on day one, to bring her feisty spirit, collaborative approach and years of leadership experience [to the council] to benefit the 14th District neighborhoods, and the City as a whole.”
This sudden change in her decision to stay out of the race seems to be in response to the momentum Ramos’ main challenger, Joseph Kane, seems to have been picking up after his endorsements from 43rd District State Senator Mary Washington and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. Ramos, who has been a mentee of sorts to both Clarke, as well as 43rd District State Delegate Maggie McIntosh, needed to pull out the big guns – and this latest endorsement is as big as they get.
Councilwoman Clarke first assumed office in 1975, having been elected to serve the 2nd district, back when Baltimore was made up of six three-member districts. After serving two-terms in the council, the longtime Tuscany-Canterbury resident decided to unsuccessfully run for City Council President against East Baltimore legend Clarence ‘Du’ Burns. However, a few years later, after Mayor William Donald Schaefer was elected Governor and Clarence ‘Du’ Burns elevated to mayor, Clarke successfully won a three-way race for the citywide position, becoming the city’s first female city council president.
In 1995, Clarke decided to challenge incumbent Mayor Kurt Schmoke and lost, closing the book on an already storied career. However, after resuming her career as an adjunct professor, Clarke was restless and decided to write a sequel to her political career after voters decided to reshape the council districts, going from three-member districts to single-member representation. She ran and easily won a seat in the 14th council district in 2003/2004 – the year we witnessed the September Primary elections happen in 2003 and the November General Election take place 14-months later in 2004.
And now, after representing that district for the past fifteen years and easily defeating all challengers that came her way, Clarke is looking to hand the baton over to what she describes as the next generation of leadership. “Now, a new generation has begun to assume leadership roles, demonstrating the diligence and vision to move Baltimore into the positive future on our horizon,” Clarke says in her recent press release. “It’s time to send our own new representative to contribute to the experience and collaboration required.”
And after last year’s divisive election, which pitted then two-term state delegate Washington against her former district allies, including Delegate McIntosh, it appears that they will be headed to battle once again, as Washington plans to pull out all the stops to help get her candidate, Mr. Kane elected; while McIntosh and Clarke plan to do the same for their chosen successor, Ms. Ramos. And while Senator Washington won the battle (of 2018), it appears the opposition is looking to win the war (of 2020).
Also running for the seat is longtime community activist Rita Church, whose mother served as a city councilwoman for the city’s old third district, and has the exact same name as her daughter.