Former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah announces 2020 run for Baltimore mayor

Thiru Vignarajah.jpeg
Posted at 9:10 AM, Apr 10, 2019

BALTIMORE — Former Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah announced Wednesday he is running for Mayor of Baltimore in 2020.

Vignarajah cited the city’s four-straight years of record-setting crime and more recently revealedcity hall controversy as his reasons for running. His campaign announcement referred to recent elections in Chicago and Detroit in which former prosecutors successfully won mayoral races as examples of voters choosing candidates outside those respective city’s “career politicians.”

“Baltimore is in crisis. There is no plan, no vision, no sense of urgency. We are victims of soaring crime, a shrinking economy, and staggering corruption—we are also victims of low expectations and a deficit of leadership,” stressed Vignarajah. “Fixing Baltimore will be a marathon and a sprint. But we will never achieve our full promise until we end the bloodshed and root out political corruption.”

For his 2020 campaign, Vignarajah promises to fix city schools, grow the city’s economy in a way that incorporates more residents, expand affordable housing, build a more modern and equitable transit system, and address “everyday issues of potholes, water bills, and squeegee boys,” though his priority will be crime and corruption, according to a statement released by his campaign. He also joined the chorus calling for current Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation, as well as the resignation of the University of Maryland Medical System’s CEO Robert Chrencik, following continued fallout from the “Healthy Holly” controversy.

READ MORE: See all of WMAR-2 News’ coverage of the “Healthy Holly” controversy.

“After years of watching politicians enrich themselves while doing next to nothing to confront the violence and drugs that have claimed thousands of lives, nothing to address the desperation of students in broken schools, nothing to change the pay-to-play culture that has dominated local politics,” Vignarajah said in a statement, “I simply cannot stand by and watch Baltimore burn to the ground.”

More specifically from a policy standpoint, Vignarajah said he would bring the city’s property taxes more inline with other counties (currently the city’s tax rate is 2.5 percent compared to roughly .5 percent in Baltimore County), invest in vital economies like biotech, cyber security and the arts, guarantee free universal pre-k for 3 and 4 year olds and free college for city public high school graduates, end cash bail, commit to high speed rail, and expand free bus routes and bike lanes. He also said he would tax marijuana, though his campaign announcement did not address the necessary first step in that prerogative, the legal cultivation and sale of recreational cannabis.

Vignarajah last endeavored into politics in 2018, where he and Ivan Bates challenged incumbent Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Democratic Primary to be the city’s top prosecutor. Mosby successfully defended her seat in that race, the de facto election in a city where Democrats far outnumber Republicans. She comfortably won the general election in November of 2018. Vignarajah came in third in the primary race, though combined he and Bates garnered 37,818 votes, according to the Associate Press tally, 1,185 more votes than Mosby.

Prior to his role is the Maryland Attorney General’s office, Vignarajah worked in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney's Office under Mosby's predecessor as the Chief of Major Investigations. He was educated at Yale College and Harvard Law School, going on to clerk for several judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Vignarajah’s parents were public school teachers in Baltimore, where he attended public school. Vignarajah has private sector experience as well, serving as an equity partner for DLA Piper, one of the city’s oldest law firms, his campaign announcement said.