The seats and even the aisles filled up quickly at the historic Arena Players Theater Thursday night.
Organizers stressed the 'Meet the Candidates' mayoral forum comes during a crucial time in Baltimore's history.
"It gives both the candidates and the audience an opportunity to hear. Not like we've had in the past, 12 to 14 candidates at one time. It's very difficult. This time we have five of what we believe are the top candidates," Louis fields, president of Baltimore African American Tours of Council, said.
On that short list were: Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, Senator Catherine Pugh, Businessman David Warnock,
Councilman Nick Mosby and Councilman Carl Stokes.
"Baltimore city gives 11 percent of it's budget to education. Every other jurisdiction in the state of Maryland gives 50 percent or better to the education of their children," Stokes said during his opening statement.
Education was one hot topic returned to a number of times throughout the night, along with transportation, policing, housing, and violence in the city.
"Right now I'm in striking distance of the person who is in front but I think we're headed right to the top. We've raised double what everybody else has raised. We're excited about our message," Senator Pugh told ABC2.
"Every election is critical and important. The question really is who is going to be the best person to move this city forward and who is going to be the best person to bring people together and really strategically understand city government's role in the whole picture here," Dixon said.
The crowd, which stayed engaged and at times vocal throughout the night, had a chance to submit questions ahead of time. However, with limited time, all had the chance to listen and at least begin to decide for themselves.
"I think folks have two clear choices in this election. Either we can go to the past and the failed policies that have kind of shaped where we are today or we can really push for change in our city," Councilman Mosby said.
"I think we're in great shape. I think the citizens of Baltimore have such a keen eye for authenticity. They really want change. They really want a different direction," Warnock said.
The deadline to register to vote is April 5, 2016 at 9 p.m. The primary election date is April 26, 2016.