The ascension of City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to the mayor’s office on Feb. 4 will set off a new power struggle within the Baltimore legislature.
City Council members will conduct a majority-wins vote as soon as next Thursday or Friday, with councilmen Bernard “Jack” Young and William Cole IV as the top contenders. However, the popularity vote seems to be in Young’s favor. The 13-year veteran is favored by all six state senators, who wrote a letter to Rawlings-Blake last week urging her to support him as the next Council president.
“As a delegation, we support Councilman Bernard ‘Jack’ Young as your successor for president of the Baltimore City Council,” the letter stated. “His work ethic, passion and commitment to Baltimore City are unparalleled. His principled leadership and sensitivity to fairness also make him uniquely prepared for leadership at this time in Baltimore’s history.”
Young, 55, represents the 12th District and chairs the Budget and Appropriations and Public Safety and Health Committees. He also serves on the Special Committee on Property Tax Relief, Labor Subcommittee and joins Cole on the Land Use and Transportation Development Committee.
Sen. Nathaniel McFadden said the delegation has always been supportive of Young. He points out that Young expressed interest in becoming the City Council president years ago but deferred because he thought Rawlings-Blake was the best fit at that time.
“We remembered that,” McFadden said. “He was a natural and he works very closely with many of the senators. He’s a strong Black man who I think Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will help move the city forward.”
While it has not been confirmed which councilman Rawlings-Blake is supporting, rumors have spread that she is under political pressure from Gov. Martin O’Malley to back Cole. In his first year on the Council, Cole, 38, serves as chairman of the Special Committee on Property Tax Relief, Community Development Subcommittee and acting committee chairman of taxation, finance and economic development in addition to education and land use and transportation issues.
“Who’s this johnny-come-lately with no record?” questions R.B. Jones, office manager to Councilwoman Belinda Jones, who has announced that she plans to vote for Young to take Rawlings-Blake’s seat. “A freshman is not going to come out of nowhere trying to get votes. If he really wanted it, he would have been lobbying as soon as he learned there was going to be a transition. This is O’Malley’s doing.”
Cole was unavailable for comment, but Jones insists that the 11th-District councilman would not have announced his interest in the position so late in the process if not for the governor’s support.
With Cole as Council president, Jones believes it will be “smooth sailing” for O’Malley and Rawlings-Blake.
“ is less likely to challenge and can be very vociferous,” Jones said. “ will speak out; he can be independent on things. Young will raise hell if he feels issues are important and don’t want that.”