Wes Moore, the author, educator and Army combat veteran some Baltimoreans were encouraging to run for mayor, said Tuesday he has ruled out entering the race.
"I put a tremendous amount of thought into this because I love our city," Moore, 36, said of a run for mayor. "I've decided the best way for me to serve is to fulfill the promise I've made to the students at BridgeEdU."
Moore is the founder of BridgeEdU, an organization that is helping more than 100 students transition from high school to college. He said he believes that growing that work can help families in Baltimore break out of cycles of poverty.
Many of the students are the first in their family to go to college, Moore said.
"BridgeEdU is growing quickly and our students are excelling," he said. "I made promises to them, and these are promises I have to keep. These are students who were told they weren't college material, and they're succeeding."
Months ago, Moore had said he was not running for mayor. But in recent weeks he had left the door open.
"I really was very seriously exploring this," he said Tuesday. "I am very frustrated with where we are as a city, and I know we don't have to be here."
Among the Democrats running for the seat that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will vacate in December 2016 are former Mayor Sheila Dixon, state Sen. Catherine Pugh and City Councilman Carl Stokes. Councilman Nick Mosby has said he is considering it.
The Democratic primary is April 26. For decades, the Democratic contest has determined the city's mayor.
Moore said he plans to be active during the campaign, urging the candidates to put forth plans to address public safety, jobs, poverty, education and racial issues in Baltimore. He said not enough is being done to improve the life trajectories of African-American men and boys.
"These are the things I'm pushing folks to make sure we are demanding," Moore said.
He recalled a lesson he learned in Afghanistan.
"The person we were most worried about is the person who hasn't worked in 24 months because that person can be convinced to do anything," he said.
The Rev. Donte Hickman of Southern Baptist Church said he was disappointed at Moore's decision. Having him in the race would have challenged the entire pool of candidates to reach their "best level," he said.
"Now, it's a wide-open race and it is really, to me, an exciting time for Baltimore," Hickman said. "We're on the brink of a breakthrough or a breakdown."
Hickman said he thinks Pugh has the most to gain by Moore's decision, considering how close she has come in the past to winning. Pugh finished second to Rawlings-Blake in the primary in 2011.
"During the riots, [Pugh] was a major presence in the community, and she has presented herself as a very strong legislator with some great ties in the state," Hickman said. He said he has not decided whom he will support.
Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.