Elizabeth Embry, DeRay Mckesson criticize Catherine Pugh's tactics in Baltimore mayor's race

"Voters should ... know whether or not the candidate has committed a crime," Embry says of Pugh.

Mayoral candidates Elizabeth Embry and DeRay Mckesson on Tuesday criticized the campaign tactics of front-runner Catherine E. Pugh, whom they accused of promising people jobs and food in exchange for votes.

Embry, a lawyer who heads the criminal division of the Maryland attorney general's office, held an afternoon news conference at her campaign headquarters during which she called on Pugh to release the names of the voters "to whom she promised jobs and then bused to the poll."

"While the matter has been referred for criminal investigation by the state prosecutor, time is short and voters should not have to wait until after the election to know whether or not the candidate has committed a crime," Embry said. "The voters deserve more. This is part of a pattern of questionable, and potentially illegal, campaign tactics, and the voters need to know the facts."

Embry also took aim at former Mayor Sheila Dixon — another leading candidate for mayor — who was forced from office amid scandal in 2010.

"Our city has not forgotten that it was a courthouse on Calvert Street where Sheila Dixon's administration ended and we cannot afford to have another administration end in that same courthouse," Embry said.

In a poll of likely Democratic voters conducted this month for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, Pugh led with 31 percent support, followed by Dixon at 25 percent. Embry was third with 9 percent.

Meanwhile, Mckesson, a prominent activist with the Black Lives Matter movement, criticized Pugh's operation in a statement sent to The Baltimore Sun.

"Integrity is a non-negotiable quality for the next mayor to have and buying votes from citizens highlights a deep lack of integrity," Mckesson said. "Citizens should be concerned about these practices as they indicate questionable core values and beliefs. I have run a campaign focused on integrity and transparency from Day One."

For days, Pugh has fended off accusations of vote buying. The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday that as Pugh's campaign recruited potential primary election day workers, it offered them free lunches and a ride to early-voting sites.

On Monday, two voters stood with the Dixon campaign to accuse Pugh of running what they called a "scam." Raymond Fenwick Jr. and Rochelle Myers said they applied for jobs with the Pugh campaign, then were pressured to vote that day for Pugh.

The Pugh campaign did not respond to the accusations Tuesday, but Pugh has defended her efforts to recruit job applicants and provide rides to the polls, saying that "we know the campaign laws."

Pugh, meanwhile, has continued to accrue endorsements — including the backing of some important labor unions. On Tuesday, she picked up the endorsement of Amalgamated Transit Union members.

Baltimoreans have been going to the polls in record numbers for early voting, which ends Thursday. More than 15,000 people have cast ballots so far — four times the number of early voters during the last mayoral race in 2011.

The primary election is April 26.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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