In about a month, far too few of Baltimore’s residents (if recent history is any indicator) will cast votes during the Democratic Primary April 26. And although there is a general election in November, in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, the winners of next month’s contest will more than likely prevail in the fall.
Several city-wide offices and all of the seats on the Baltimore City Council are being challenged. But, at this historic moment in the city’s history — in wake of all that transpired last year — the next mayor of Baltimore inherits a herculean task.
In the words of the legendary hip hop trio, De La Soul, “Stakes is high.”
Of all the political races I’ve covered over the years, I’ve occupied my most compelling perspective for this tipping point election in 2016. I’ve moderated three mayoral debates and interviewed dozens of candidates for all city offices, including mayor, as host of “First Edition.” And it has been fascinating, if at times a bit maddening to watch the process unfold.
However, one thing that has been incredibly encouraging to witness is the numbers of young men and women who have thrown their hats in the ring and declared their desire to provide leadership and have a very real stake in the trajectory of this city’s future.
In the race for mayor several young leaders have emerged including former prosecutor Elizabeth Embry, former banker Patrick Gutierrez, community advocate Joshua Harris (running as a Green Party candidate), Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby (D) and former Obama White House staffer, Calvin Young.
All six have impressed in different ways for different reasons. Embry has exhibited exceptional command of and an innovative approach to public safety issues. Mosby has been relentless in his narrative of delivering youthful, effective change for Baltimore (this week he has produced the campaign’s first attack ad, skewering the “failed” leadership of former Mayor Sheila Dixon (D), Councilman Carl Stokes (D) and Sen. Catherine Pugh (D), as part of a feckless old guard). And more people have approached me directly to tell me they are most impressed by Young, typically because of what they perceive is his fresh ideas and incisive manner.
But, among our more provincial and suspicious neighbors, which may be the city’s majority (whether we want to admit it or not), there is a consensus emerging around the young lions (and one lioness) who aspire to occupy the big chair at City Hall; they need more seasoning. Still, many others would argue just the opposite. We’ll see which sentiment prevails on April 26.
Nevertheless, the two frontrunners, Dixon and Pugh are indeed well known. In a recent Baltimore Sun, University of Baltimore poll the two women were in a virtual tie with Pugh ahead of the former mayor 26 to 24 percent. With about a month left, the city’s demographics could craft some circuitous storylines.
Lingering in third in that Sun, UB poll is businessman David Warnock (who has been running tv ads for months) with 10 percent of the vote. When it comes to the ubiquitous specter of race in Baltimore, veteran political observers know generally Blacks are more apt to vote for White candidates, than Whites are likely to vote for Black candidates. Pugh has historically enjoyed broad support in the business community, as well as the city’s White communities generally. Could Warnock’s (and maybe to a lesser degree Embry’s) presence cut into enough of Pugh’s White votes, to imperil the Senator’s chances of victory in such a tight contest, returning Dixon to the chair?
Or, could we revisit that 1999 playbook, which saw Martin O’Malley win what seemed like an implausible victory over former City Council President Lawrence Bell and Stokes? That outcome has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many to this day. Some believe we could see the sequel with Warnock as the beneficiary in 2016.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen on April 26. But, I am absolutely convinced Baltimore revels in its propensity for political panache.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor to the AFRO and host and executive producer of, “First Edition,” which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m on WEAA, 88.9