While people have speculated for months whether former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon would once again run for Mayor; the current Baltimore Mayor, Catherine Pugh answered those questions yesterday with her own statement – try it if you if you want!
The first-term mayor who has come under a barrage of criticism since assuming the city’s highest office; from her veto of the $15 minimum wage hike that she promised she’d sign on the campaign trail, to the mishandling of a police commissioner selection at a time when the city has experienced over 300 homicides for four years straight. But she quickly silenced her critics with a campaign haul of close to a $1 million in little over a year ahead of the 2020 Primary elections.
Starting off 2018 with close to $600,000 in the bank, the former state senator and city councilwoman raked in another $400,000 in 2018. After coming under scrutiny by another news publication, the Baltimore Brew, for constantly sending out fundraising solicitations while informing citizens on her latest actions as Mayor; Pugh hasn’t slowed in her successful attempt of raising the money necessary to contend with what is expected to be a crowded field of competitors.
Her expected challenger, former Mayor Dixon, hasn’t raised any money at all over the past year; only spending money on a ballot used to support certain candidates in last year’s Primary elections. The city’s first female mayor, Dixon currently has a meager $10,000 in the bank. However, having been one of the city’s most accomplished mayors, including being responsible for the single largest reduction in homicides and violent crime in the past thirty years; Ms. Dixon shouldn’t have any problems raising the kind of money necessary to compete with Pugh.
Yet that may not be the case for lesser known challengers such as Councilman Brandon Scott or his council colleague, Councilman Zeke Cohen. Both have been rumored to be possible mayoral candidates in 2020, though neither has even a quarter of the money that Pugh has – or half the level of name recognition of Pugh or Dixon. But that won’t stop either from testing the waters over the next few months, and it seems like Cohen may have an added financial advantage over Scott going into the start of 2019.
Cohen, the first-term 1st district councilman, currently has over $200,000 in the bank, after bringing in almost $150,000 this year. Scott on the other hand, a second-term councilman, brought in $84,000 this year, giving him a total that is less than what Cohen raised this year ($145,000). However, Scott is the better-known candidate, having been the Chairman (or Vice-Chairman) of the city’s Public Safety Committee for years now. And since it’s unlikely that these two young political mavericks would run for the same seat in 2020, it may come down to political expediency and strategic thinking as to who runs for Mayor, and who winds up running for City Council President.
But that run won’t be any easier, as the two-term incumbent Council President, Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, says that he’s not going anywhere, and has the second most amount of money of any city candidate or incumbent. Young, a longtime East Baltimore leader and former city councilman, raked in over $60,000 this year, giving him roughly $600,000 in his campaign war chest. With that kind of money, and the 90%+ name recognition he has amongst democratic voters across Baltimore; it appears unlikely someone is going to walk in and defeat Young without having put together a campaign the likes of the Obama Illinois race for U.S. Senator back in 2004 or the Presidential one in 2008.
The other citywide seat is that of the Comptroller, which has been controlled by Joan Pratt since 1995. Only the second female, and second African American to sit in the seat since it’s creation in 1900, Pratt has one of the strongest locks on a political seat witnessed in Baltimore since the Schaefer days. And while names such as retiring councilman Bill Henry, and 11th district councilman Eric Costello have surfaced as to possibly challenging Pratt in 2020; it’s unlikely either will be successful without a lot of cash and even more prayer.
Pratt is currently sitting on over a quarter-million in campaign cash, with a level of name recognition that is stronger than anyone other than Sheila Dixon. And while Henry’s desire to live by his belief that council members should have term limits, deciding not to run for an all but guaranteed fourth-term; he has never been able to raise the kind of cash that would be needed to defeat Pratt.
And while Costello could possibly compete with her in the campaign cash department, his lack of citywide name recognition, on top of the reality that African American seniors and women are almost certainly not going to vote for a white politician over their beloved black female public servant. The only candidate able to possibly defeat Pratt today is that of former Mayor Dixon, who would never challenge her longtime friend and church mate.
Other potential mayoral candidates, such as former candidates Elizabeth Embry or David Warnock, are unlikely candidates given their campaign cash is null and void at this point. There have been names dropped such as former city police spokesman T.J. Smith, and former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis mentioned in the past few months; but given that Smith just landed a sweet job in Baltimore County and still isn’t a city resident, and Lewis is focused on his #52 brand, it’s unlikely that they will form a campaign finance account in the coming weeks to run a job that pays them less than what they make now. (Even though elected positions like this are less about the money and more about the prestige and power)
I guess we have to wait to see who emerges as strong and likely challengers to either one of these three citywide officials. But whoever it is better have a strong fundraising ability and an even stronger campaign team willing to campaign in such a way that citizens don’t feel nauseous when casting their votes for them, but rather optimistically obligated to do so. Who is that candidate and what are they waiting for?