BALTIMORE — City Council President Brandon Scott, who ran a campaign focused on youthful energy, progressive ideas and experience, has won the Democratic nomination for Baltimore mayor. He has pledged to tackle longstanding challenges in the city such as gun violence and substance abuse.
The victory puts Scott in a strong position to be the next mayor of the struggling city. Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-1 in Baltimore, and the general election in November is mostly seen as a formality.
Scott has been a city councilman since 2011 and became council president last year. He emerged victorious from a field that included more than 20 Democrats, including incumbent Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and former Mayor Sheila Dixon.
If he is elected in November, he will have to address substandard public schools, crumbling low-income neighborhoods, declining population, and a homicide rate that is on pace to match last year’s 348 killings despite stay-at-home directives prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Republican side, nonprofit executive Shannon Wright emerged victorious.
Scott will also have to work to restore people’s trust in local government. This was the first election since Catherine Pugh resigned as mayor last year amid investigations into the lucrative sales of her self-published children’s books. Pugh pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges and was sentenced to three years in prison in February.
Counting the votes has been a slower than usual process since the primary, in large part because so many people voted by mail to avoid the risks of in-person voting amid the coronavirus. On Tuesday, a week after the June 2 election, Baltimore elections officials announced that nearly every vote had been counted.
The election has had a series of issues. Officials ended up authorizing the addition of two voting centers to the previously allotted four over concerns that ballots were not arriving in the mail as planned. On Election Day, dozens of voters remained in line two hours after polls were scheduled to close because social-distancing measures prompted by the pandemic slowed the flow of people at voting centers. Early Wednesday, voting results from the city were taken down from the state’s election board’s website due to an issue with ballots in one district.
Scott, who was endorsed by several unions, proposed a new approach to reducing violence by treating it as a public health crisis, believing that agencies citywide must collaborate with the police department in the effort. He promised to bring down the annual number of homicides to under 300 during his first year in office. That has not happened since 2014.
“Crime has to be addressed in a comprehensive way,” he told The Associated Press ahead of the election.
Positioning himself as a progressive leader, Scott proposed organizational changes to city government, including an overhaul of the board that awards all city contracts. Most recently, Young signed into law a measure introduced by Scott that provides housing protections to tenants during the pandemic.
At 36, Scott was the youngest of the mayoral Democratic front-runners. He was once mentored by the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and was tabbed for lieutenant governor by an unsuccessful candidate in 2018.
The Council President released the following statement in response to tonight’s totals:
“Tonight, we celebrate a hard-fought victory for the future of Baltimore. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank my family, my team, our volunteers, those who voted for a new way forward for Baltimore, and everyone who believes change is not just possible, but long overdue. Our city stands at a crossroads. Baltimore will only move forward as a city united, not divided. It will take all of us to build a city that is safe, equitable, and accountable. As a son of Baltimore, I could not be more honored to lead our great city in this critical moment and carry the work forward with you. Thank you.”
Opponent Mary Miller also released a statement on Scott's victory:
My mayoral campaign has always been about Baltimore, and I’d like to thank all Baltimoreans for your engagement in this election.
I called Council President Brandon Scott this morning to congratulate him on his likely victory in this hard-fought primary. Brandon ran an excellent campaign, and I appreciate the ideas and the energy he brought to the table. I wish him the best in the next leg of this race.
Baltimore faces great challenges – getting us back on our feet from the coronavirus, facing the economic fallout head-on, and tackling the bigger issues that plague our city: a crime emergency coupled with racism and inequality. These issues have been brought to the forefront of our consciousness by the killing of George Floyd and the moving protests and demonstrations of the last two weeks.
If Brandon is elected Mayor in November, I wish him all the success in addressing these challenges, and I know he will fight for our city. We all want a brighter future for Baltimore.