Last night, the fourteen members of the Baltimore City Council, voted unanimously to elect second district councilman Brandon Scott to fill the vacant City Council President seat. Scott, a 35-year old Park Heights native, became the youngest council president in Baltimore modern city, overtaking the distinction that was once held by his political mentor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – who was also elected by her colleagues to the seat in 2007 at the age of thirty-six.
Scott became the 21st council president selected since the voters of Baltimore City changed the council system from a two-branch council to one of a unicameral council. Becoming the ninth council member to reach the position by way of vacancy, elected by his colleagues rather than the citizens of Baltimore City; Scott vowed to be the shepherd of the council, while ensuring that all contracts brought before the city’s Board of Estimates – which he will now chair – are in the best interest of all Balimoreans.
Nominated by a longtime friend and mentor, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke – who earlier in the day announced her retirement from politics; Scott appeared graciously stunned that he had reached the pinnacle of becoming the second most powerful elected official of Baltimore – a dream he has had since childhood. The protégé of former Council President and Mayor Rawlings-Blake, Scott was said to have benefited from her lobbying of his council colleagues over the weekend, as he sought to secure the eight votes necessary to get elected to the position.
His challenger, 6th district councilwoman Sharon Green-Middleton, had held the position temporarily over the past month, serving in an ex-officio manner while the duly elected Council President, Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, held down the fort for Mayor Catherine Pugh, who had been on indefinite leave since the beginning of April. Last week Pugh decided to resign the position she hailed as her “dream job”, facing possible ethical and legal charges due to the Healthy Holly book scandal that came to light this year thanks to legislation introduced in Annapolis by former Pugh ally, State Senator Jill P. Carter.
The city charter, which is the governing document of Baltimore the likes of the nation’s Constitution, called for Young – who has served as Council President since 2010 – to automatically assume the office of Mayor once Pugh resigned. That led to the council presidency being vacated and a political battle between Middleton and Scott for the hearts and minds of their council colleagues.
Interesting enough, Middleton inherited her council seat from the district’s former incumbent, Rawlings-Blake, before she was elected by her colleagues in 2007 to the position of Council President. Those same members then selected Middleton to fill the vacant 6th district council seat. However, Rawlings-Blake endorsed Scott over her former district colleague, thanks in the large part to their years of friendship and political alliance. Scott landed at City Hall by working for Rawlings-Blake, both while she was Council President, as well as during her time as Mayor. He used that to help catapult his way onto the city council in 2007 following the retirement of second district councilman Nicholas ‘Nick’ D’Adamo.
Now it will be up to Scott and his colleagues as to who will follow Scott in the city’s 2nd district, as that seat will have to be filled in the coming weeks. It’s rumored that the leading candidate is the sister of first-term state senator Cory McCray. Danielle ‘Dani’ McCray, was present last night in council chambers as her boss, Council President Scott, was being elected and sworn-in. McCray has worked for Scott for a few years and seems to have the relationship with the council members who will be responsible for voting to fill the vacancy.
There are also reports surfacing over the past two days that another East Baltimore state legislator may have a relative looking to fill that seat, as Delegate Talmadge Branch is rumored to want his daughter to fill the vacant council seat. It’s no secret that although both McCray and Branch serve in the same 45th legislative district, representing the voters of this East Baltimore district; that there is boiling animosity between the two that began back during the 2018 primary elections, where McCray knocked off Branch’s longtime friend and senator, Nathaniel McFadden.
That beef, which essentially became a dueling war between two political clubs, Branch’s membership with the Eastside Democratic Organization, and McCray’s co-founding of the BEST Democratic Club. Those tensions boiled over during the recent legislative session in Annapolis after McCray helped kill a Branch-backed bill that sought to place the control over the city’s police department with the city instead of the state. That led to Branch countering this with his own political maneuver, special ordering one of McCray’s bills until the next session in 2020, as payback for McCray’s earlier actions. This reportedly led to a verbal exchange between the two in the hallways of the legislative chambers, and only exacerbated the fractured relationship between the two political giants.
This battle may make its way onto the council floor in the coming weeks as the council hears testimony from those seeking to fill the 2nd district council vacancy, though it would appear that Ms. McCray would have the advantage in this contest given her relationship with the council members after working with them over the past few years. But whoever wins the nomination to fill the vacant council seat, they will have to run for the seat immediately, since the election for this seat – and the rest of the city’s elected seats – take place next year, with the Primary elections happening on April 28th, less than a year from now. It would also help to have Scott’s blessing, since most council members tend to defer to whoever the outgoing council member chooses to replace them, and that would almost certainly be Scott’s staff member, McCray.
But politics aside, Scott deservingly has won a seat that is only a heartbeat away from the position he assured this reporter back in 2007 that he would be seeking in 2020; and he isn’t far from achieving that goal. We wish him and his colleagues, including the city’s 51st Mayor, Mr. Young, all the best over the next year and a half.