Earlier this week, former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Ann Dixon had reason to celebrate, if only for a moment, after two different polls had her leading the pack of mayoral candidates seeking the democratic nomination in the upcoming April 28th Primary election.
Dixon, who was elected Baltimore’s first female mayor in 2007 after ascending to the position earlier in the year, is primed to win back her old seat if things hold true over the next two months. Known for her hands-on, gritty style of leadership that led to historic lows in homicides, shootings and quality of life crimes during her previous administration, the 66-year old former educator has taken to social media and radio to disseminate her message while other candidates have spent thousands of dollars in television and direct mail ads to no avail.
“While I appreciate the growing support I am receiving from voters from across this city, my fight to Build a Better Baltimore won’t stop because we have the lead in a few polls.” ~ Mayor Sheila A. Dixon
The first poll to release their results was Global Strategy Group, which had conducted its polling on behalf of the Brandon Scott campaign. Their results, from a poll taken in early February of roughly 400 likely Democratic primary voters, showed Dixon with a lead of 20% support, followed by Scott at 16%, T.J. Smith at 13%, Mayor Bernard C. ‘Jack’ Young tied with Thiru Vignarajah with 11% support, followed by Mary Washington with 9% and Mary Miller with 2% of support.
And while this poll clearly showed that Council President Scott was the closest competitor to Dixon, especially with 17% of the electorate still undecided, it wasn’t what was reflective of a different poll that was released the following day, taken by Gonzalez Research and Media Services. Their poll, taken roughly at the same time as the GSG poll and the second in as many months for Gonzalez, showed Dixon remaining the front-runner, but Scott in the back of the field with only 11% support – 2% points higher than the city’s other incumbent legislator, Mayor Young.
The Gonzalez poll had a three-way tie for second place, between former prosecutor Vignarajah – who led the pack in their December poll – along with Smith and State Senator Washington, each having 15% support. The one constant in both polls was every candidate was trailing Dixon, as she maintained front-runner status in both. Having only 15.7% of support and in third place during the December poll released by Gonzalez last month, Dixon has since seen her popularity rise significantly amongst voters from different backgrounds.
Once seen as the candidate who had support of only the uneducated black voters of Baltimore with a short ceiling of support, largely consisting of African American women, Dixon has since shown that her support is widening amongst generational and racial divides. In 2016, the Dixon campaign largely bypassed the white community, understanding that many of those voters hadn’t forgiven her, and probably would never forgive her, for the gift card scandal that forced her to resign her mayoral position in February of 2010. But this go round, she is beating down the doors in all city neighborhoods, sounding the alarm as to the kind of leadership Baltimore will need in order to reverse the violently bloody trend that has witnessed over 300+ homicides each year for the past five years.
“I believe Sheila probably has double the amount of support that these polls reflect, given that most voters aren’t contacted by these groups.”
And regardless of voter perceptions on her 2010 conviction, most voters of all persuasions believe that Dixon is the only candidate for mayor who can hit the ground running on Day One and begin to turn things around. Even the most hardened anti-Dixon voter admits that her leadership style was effective during her time as Mayor, and it is this sentiment that has area voters willing to give the “cleaner, greener mayor” one more shot at redemption and glory. “If you think about it, I would trust Sheila as Mayor more than the rest, just based on the simple fact that she will have to work extra hard to win back the support and trust of area voters, knowing that all eyes will be on her and her administration, she would probably be the most transparent and upfront mayor out of the rest of the candidates, more so because she knows that she will be under a microscope,” says Baltimore voter Teresa Smith, who says she will be voting for Dixon in April, and wished she had voted for her instead of former disgraced Mayor Catherine Pugh back in 2016.
“She [Pugh] really pulled a fast one on me and my neighbors, telling us a vote for our chosen candidate, Elizabeth Embry, was in fact a vote for Dixon,” Smith explains. “But even before her indictment, we realized how ineffective of a mayor Pugh was, and this time around we have really studied who would produce the best crime-fighting strategy, and make the best overall mayor; and Dixon appears to be the one, hands down. So almost my entire block will be supporting her.”
Smith says she has yet to receive any calls from polling companies such as Global Strategy Group or Gonzalez, despite being what is known as a “super voter” never missing the opportunity to cast her ballot during an election. And she believes that polls such as those only reflect a portion of the overall voter sentiment in this city. “I believe Sheila probably has double the amount of support that these polls reflect, given that most voters aren’t contacted by these groups, and those that are may not always be truthful with their answers.”
Either way, Dixon appears to be poised to pull off the greatest political comeback in modern history. However, the former Mayor responded to this article with two sentences. “While I appreciate the growing support I am receiving from voters from across this city, my fight to build a better Baltimore won’t stop because we have the lead in a few polls,” she says. “My love and determination to see this city prosper has never wavered, and I will work around the clock to ensure that every area resident sees my passion reflected in my daily actions to help turn this city around.”