Roughly 11 weeks remain until Baltimore’s mayoral primary, but Democratic candidates are already dominating airwaves, television and print media, publicizing how they would transform Baltimore if they were mayor.

Current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who, by far, boasts the most money in her campaign coffers and the most endorsements, made her official announcement before a crowd of hundreds in front of her childhood home June 27.
On her campaign website, Rawlings-Blake pledges to reduce gun violence by continuing to fight for tougher sentencing for repeat offenders, draft a 10-year financial plan to prevent future budget shortfalls and encourage job growth through increased funding for a city program that creates the “next generation of high tech jobs.”

State Sen. Catherine Pugh is also one of the latest contenders to announce her candidacy. Rumors began to swirl about a Pugh run earlier this year, but she brushed off inquirers until earlier this month.

Pugh is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Baltimore to attend Morgan State University. The former print and television journalist owns a public relations firm and has served on the City Council and the Maryland House of Delegates. She’s championed 77 pieces of legislation in her seven years in the Legislature, and as mayor, she has vowed to work with police to improve public safety, increase opportunities for young people, grow Baltimore’s economy and promote a “green and clean” Baltimore.

Otis Rolley, the chief of staff for former Mayor Sheila Dixon and Baltimore’s youngest city planning director at age 29, says he aspires to be mayor—not a career politician, that seeks higher office every election year.

The New Jersey native has released several reports, including how he would improve the public school system by eliminating the city-state partnership, and increase employment and reduce crime by offering tax credits for employers that hire ex-offenders.

Rolley has also called for more government accountability and argues that city workers should live in Baltimore.

He’s the only high-profile candidate who hasn’t held elected office.

Likely contender Councilman Carl Stokes, D-12, has yet to file, because, as he told the AFRO recently, he enjoys the rush and excitement of filing late. He “unofficially” announced his run for the city’s top office mid-May and has hit the campaign trail, making appearances at various festivals and community events.

Stokes co-founded the Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy, a charter middle school for boys, and served on the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.

He assumed the 12th district seat last year after Bernard C. “Jack” Young took the helm as City Council president when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became mayor.

He’s used his City Council position to call for an audit of Recreation and Parks, and moments before the council’s final vote on the 2012 budget in June, he submitted a proposal to redirect funding from public safety to youth jobs. His amendment was voted down, but fellow council members praised his efforts.

Stokes first ran for mayor in 1999, but fell to Gov. Martin O’Malley. He faced controversy when it was discovered he had not graduated from Loyola College as claimed.

Joseph T. “Jody” Landers, the only White mayoral contender, quit his 13-year job as executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors to run for mayor.

Landers emphasizes reducing property taxes, addressing the foreclosure crisis and tackling the city’s high number of vacant properties. He’s also talked of increasing the productivity of city services.

The Baltimore-born former city councilman graduated with a degree in business from Morgan State University. He previously mounted unsuccessful races for the House of Delegates and comptroller.

Many political observers speculate this year’s mayoral race could end as in 1999, when the White candidate, Gov. Martin O’Malley, snagged the majority vote, while the Black vote was split among multiple Black candidates.

Another familiar face is Frank M. Conaway Sr., who has bowed out of three mayor’s races in the past to avoid splitting the Black vote. He filed in May and says he will see this year’s race to the end. The “Papa” in the infamous “Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear” campaigns said he embraces his “career politician” status. He has successfully won four citywide elections.

The 78-year-old clerk of the Circuit Court says his platform is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” He pledges to re-establish late William Donald Schaefer’s $1 house program and said his office as mayor would have no door, promoting a transparent city government.
A recent audit showed his office neglected to collect $7.8 million in overdue fees from 2008 through September 2010. Conaway said it is not in his job description to seek outstanding balances.

All of the candidates, with the exception of Conaway and Rawlings-Blake, have outlined plans to reduce the city’s property tax by large margins. The mayor’s finance department released an in-depth report earlier this month rebuffing any proposal that immediately decreases the tax. Rawlings-Blake has said revenue from a proposed slots casino could help lower the rate. Conaway has told media outlets that city residents are over-taxed but he won’t make a promise to lower property taxes if he isn’t sure he can uphold it.

A fairly unknown Democrat named Wilton Wilson has also filed. The Jamaican-born man has never held elected office and says he relates to the struggles of everyday residents.

One Republican, Vicki Ann Harding, has filed, and an Independent, Catalina Byrd, plans to run.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO