Stephanie Rawlings-Blake glided to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday, securing the nomination for a full four-year term in the office to which she ascended last year.
In her first campaign for Baltimore's highest office, Rawlings-Blake turned aside spirited challenges from a state senator, a former city planner and the vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, scoring more endorsements, raising more money and ultimately garnering more votes than the rest of the field combined.
Despite the competition, voter turnout was historically low. In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than nine to one, the primary win all but assures Rawlings-Blake of victory in the general election.
"Thank you for your confidence and your vote to have me continue as your mayor during these times. It is a humbling experience," Rawlings-Blake, 41, told supporters at a post-election celebration Tuesday night. "I will work every day to make your lives better, to make our city better and to earn your confidence."
She wished her opponents well.
"This campaign was good for our city," she told the crowd at Soundstage Baltimore, a downtown nightclub." It was a good race about issues and that people deserve the best from their government."
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a staunch ally, proclaimed Rawlings-Blake's win "a tremendous victory for Baltimore." Rep. Elijah E. Cummings spoke of his pride in Rawlings-Blake, who he said was "like a daughter."
In the Republican primary, Alfred V. Griffin held a 22-vote lead over Vicki Ann Harding with 288 of 290 precincts having reported.
Rawlings-Blake was elevated to mayor in February 2010 after Sheila Dixon resigned in a plea deal to settle corruption charges. The fact that she wasn't elected to the office inspired an unusually high number of serious challengers.
But Democrats said her calm demeanor in the face of crises — the pair of blizzards that greeted her arrival in office, followed by two years of budget shortfalls and, most recently, a hurricane and an earthquake — inspired their confidence.
"I want to give her a full term," Angela Lyles, 46, said after voting in East Baltimore. "She needs to get a fair chance."
Democratic voters also backed City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was appointed by his colleagues after Rawlings-Blake became mayor. Young trounced a field that included Thomas Kiefaber, the former owner of theSenator Theater.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city planning director Otis Rolley, former Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors vice president Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and Clerk of Court Frank M. Conaway Sr. sought to turn the mayoral primary into a referendum on Rawlings-Blake's leadership.
The challengers tried to paint her as the latest representative of an establishment that had been unable to make the city safe, maintain the public schools or grow the economy. They said she was too tightly allied with the wealthy developers who backed her campaign, and lacked the political independence to reverse decades of decline.
But the field split the anti-incumbent vote, bolstering Rawlings-Blake.
"It sort of chops up the vote into little slivers of the pie," said Lenneal Henderson, senior fellow in the William Donald Schaefer School of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore.
Pugh, who came in second to Rawlings-Blake, struck a defiant tone before a crowd of about 200 supporters.
"We believe leadership needs to listen," Pugh said. "We can do better, and the reality is we have to do better."
Pugh told reporters her campaign "didn't have enough time" to get out its message.