Sheriff John W. Anderson (right), incumbent for 33 years, lost to mentee Sam Cogen (left) in the Democratic primary. Cogen has no Republican opponent for the general election on Nov. 8.

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
Report For America corps member,

Many in Maryland have their eyes set on the Governor’s race, but voters should also be concerned with who’s in the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office. 

The sheriff holds one of the highest offices in law enforcement in which voters have a say. In contrast, the police commissioner is selected by and reports directly to the mayor. Each sheriff represents a particular jurisdiction.

 “The sheriff answers to the people and is elected by the people,” said Sam Cogen, the Democratic nominee for sheriff.

The incumbent of 33 years, Sheriff John W. Anderson, has been defeated by his mentee, Cogen, in the July 19 primary. 

“I worked under him for many years,” Cogen told the AFRO, in reference to Anderson. “He helped mentor me with treating people well.” 

According to his biography, Sheriff John W. Anderson graduated from Baltimore City College High School. He also graduated from Towson State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. 

Cogen went to Goucher College for a sociology degree and took an internship at the sheriff’s office, which gave him direction for his career. He spent 25 years working at the sheriff’s office under Anderson, climbing his way up to Assistant Sheriff until 2021, when he resigned.

“I ran a respectful campaign, focused on the issues,” said Cogen, when asked about the climate of the race. “He [Anderson] wasn’t happy.”

Anderson declined to speak with the media.

Cogen’s platform hinges on the modernization of the office, which he claims is outdated, and the transparency of the eviction process. Anderson, in opposition, prided himself on his traditional techniques.

“Respect of City residents is of core importance for us,” said Cogen. “I fully believe in transparency – or people to hold me accountable – and being present in the community.”

According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Cogen won 52 percent of the vote, compared to Anderson’s 48 percent. There is no Republican running mate, so Cogen is likely to win.

“We were fully engaged – I was very pleased,” said Cogen, about his campaign team and their success. “We worked really hard.” 

Cogen said he reached out to the 30 percent that wouldn’t usually vote for sheriff by campaigning in more traditional ways, such as door-to-door visits and community events. He explains what the sheriff’s office does at the events, as he says many voters do not know its purpose.

His research paid off, which showed in the election results in the mail-in ballot portion. Anderson and Cogen sustained similar numbers until the mail-in ballot results showed a 2,715-vote win for Cogen, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

This would have been Anderson’s ninth term in office as the sheriff serves four-year terms. 

“There’s a lot of good things that were associated with Anderson in his position,” said Cogen to the AFRO. “He ran a good office, but we think we can do more with it.”

General election day is Nov. 8. 

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