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Pugh opens campaign headquarters, officially launches bid for mayor

Catherine Pugh officially launches bid for mayor, saying, "I will depend on you and you can count on me."

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh told about 100 supporters Saturday that as mayor she would reduce Baltimore's crime rate by putting more people to work and would depend on members of the community to "lift each other up."

During a wide-ranging speech, Pugh talked about her vision for more children to read at younger ages, more police officers to live within the city limits and more former offenders to successfully transition back into society.

"I am not going to be a mayor who sits in City Hall; I am going to be your walk-around mayor," said Pugh, 65. "You may notice me sitting in your boardroom or talking with your children, developing respect and understanding that this is a great city with great people.

"I will depend on you and you can count on me."

Pugh made her comments at a holiday party at her new campaign headquarters in the 1000 block of N. Charles Street in Baltimore's Mid-Town Belvedere neighborhood.

She is among more than a dozen candidates who have filed to replace outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who chose not to run for another term. The challengers she will face in the Democratic primary April 26 include former Mayor Sheila Dixon, City Councilman Nick Mosby, City Councilman Carl Stokes, businessman David L. Warnock, and Elizabeth Embry, criminal division chief for the Maryland attorney general's office.

In recent decades, the winner of the primary has gone on to become mayor in the heavily Democratic city.

Pugh came in second behind Rawlings-Blake in the 2011 mayoral election with a quarter of the votes in a six-way Democratic primary race.

Pugh, the majority leader of the state Senate, was previously elected to the City Council. She owns a consignment shop in Pigtown, is co-founder of the Baltimore Design School and is an assistant professor of business and economics at Morgan State University.

Her 20-minute speech did not provide many specifics, but rather laid out a sweeping vision that highlighted her priorities. She touched on the need to reduce property taxes, eliminate food deserts, seize boarded-up houses from absent property owners and lower the auto insurance rates that city drivers are charged, even if it means creating a company to sell policies.

Pugh, who is single and has no children, told the crowd that she would be "a leader who is married to the city."

"We are at critical time in our city, and we cannot afford to go backward," Pugh said. "One of the things this city needs is a great cheerleader."

Tony Hawkins, a longtime city developer, said he has worked with Pugh for 40 years and regards her as a leader who can bring people together.

"This is a watershed election," said Hawkins, 70, of Harbor East. "Cathy is credible in the major boardrooms in the city and is respected in Annapolis. She is respected at the White House level. Without those relationships, Baltimore loses."

Shannon Morgan said she believes Pugh would improve Baltimore's image by showcasing the best the city has to offer and that that is especially important given the visibility of the April unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray.

"She loves the city. I love my city," said Morgan, 34, of Irvington. "She is looking to empower the city and show that we have a lot of great people here. Baltimore is not what they've seen. It's not just North and Penn."

Other Democrats who have filed to run for mayor include Mack Clifton, Gersham Cupid, Patrick Gutierrez, Joshua S. Harris, Mike Maraziti, Cindy Walsh and Calvin Allen Young III.

Republican Brian Charles Vaeth also has filed.

The filing deadline is Feb. 3.

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