Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake consented Wednesday to participate in four August debates with those challenging her for her job.
"Now that the field is set, I am excited to debate those who are seeking the privilege of serving the people of Baltimore as mayor," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "This is an important election about important issues and I look forward to sharing my vision for a better, safer and stronger Baltimore."
Rawlings-Blake said she planned to join in a debate on the talk-show host Larry Young's morning show on WOLB radio and was discussing a debate broadcast by Maryland Public Television. The campaign said Rawlings-Blake also would participate in two candidates forums, including one focused on issues affecting people with disabilities.
"It's about time," said challenger and former city planning director Otis Rolley, who has been calling for Rawlings-Blake to join debates and candidates forums for weeks.
"Everybody else has been," said another challenger, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh. "Those of us who care about the community have been coming out."
"Part of the reason I've been pushing so hard for these debates is that I have pretty high expectations for the citizens of Baltimore," Rolley said. "Without those debates, it's hard for them to hear real substantive discussions of who has a plan and who doesn't."
Pugh questioned why Rawlings-Blake would only agree to four debates, saying the debates should be planned by independent groups, not the mayor's office.
Rolley said he wanted to debate education, crime, youth and jobs and economic development with the other candidates.
Pugh said she would like to debate solutions for lead paint poisoning, drug abuse and moving Baltimore "away from being a developer-driven city to a community-driven city."
Rolley, Pugh, Clerk of Court Frank M. Conaway Sr., former City Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, City Councilman Carl Stokes and activist Wilton Wilson have appeared at several forums sponsored by community and civil rights groups over the past few months. Stokes has since dropped out of the mayoral race.
Also Wednesday, the majority of Baltimore City Council members endorsed Rawlings-Blake's bid to keep her seat. Stokes, Councilman Bill Henry and Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, whose father is challenging Rawlings-Blake, were not present.