Schmoozing after a mayoral candidate forum at Morgan State University last week, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh draped a long, slim arm around a student's neck and drew him close for a chat.
Never mind that they had just met. Or that Pugh, with only days left before the Democratic primary on Tuesday, was running late for her next campaign event.
"She feels very real," gushed Brandon Mitchell, a 21-year-old Morgan senior. "No matter how busy she is, she'll stop and talk to you."
It was classic Cathy Pugh: Taking a little extra time with a person, even pulling him or her physically close. She applies the same charm in Annapolis, grasping arms instead of twisting them to rack up legislative victories.
Now, at age 61, she says she wants to use her charisma to put Baltimore on better footing.
Pugh says she's running for mayor because she has a vision for Baltimore's future that others lack.
"I want to take this city in a different direction that is more community-focused," she said. She says she wants more people to own homes, start businesses and thrive in the city.
She boasts about the new design-focused school she opened in North Baltimore. She helped bring a marathon to Baltimore and sprinkling sculptures of fish throughout the city as a way of raising funds for education.
Pugh brings to her work varied experience: Her job titles have included banker, college professor, college dean, children's book writer and broadcast journalist.
Pugh won election to the City Council from East Baltimore in 1999. Four years later, she challenged Dixon for the council presidency and lost.
The death of Del. Tony E. Fulton created a vacancy in Annapolis. Pugh wanted the seat — but so did Wendell Rawlings, son of the late Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings and brother of current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. picked Pugh. She was elected to the state Senate in 2007.
Born in Norristown, Pa., Pugh came to Baltimore in the 1970s to attend Morgan State and never left. She has made keeping the city's college graduates in Baltimore a theme of her campaign: She wants them to buy houses here and make careers here — just as she did.
After graduating she went to work for the Equitable Trust Bank and then moved to the nonprofit Council for Equal Business Opportunity, where she helped African-Americans launch small businesses.
Catherine E. Pugh
Family: Single, no children
Education: B.S., M.B.A., Morgan State University
Occupation: Owns C.E. Pugh and Co.
Public Offices Held: Maryland Senate, 2007-present; House of Delegates, 2005-2007; Baltimore City Council, 1999-2004
Why are you running for mayor? I want to take the city in a different direction to make it more community focused. We need to balance what we do downtown with the needs of our community.
What is the greatest challenge facing Baltimore? Providing a brighter future for our young people, reducing crime and improving schools and creating business and job opportunities in our city.
How do you intend to address it? Reach out to businesses, the philanthropic and faith-based, and let them know how they can help. Sit down with the CEOs of our city, and ascertain what products they utilize that we could bring and have manufactured here. … Build new schools like I am doing.