Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea has tapped Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott as his running mate in the Democratic primary for governor, creating a city-centric ticket designed to appeal to several wings of the party.
Shea, 65, said Scott, 33, brings wisdom beyond his years and can help bridge a generational divide among Democrats.
“He’s got youth and experience on his side,” Shea said. “He’s part of a generation that’s coming into its own with lots of potential and not interested in the same-old, same-old. I think Brandon’s a leader in that generation.”
Shea is the former chairman of the Venable law firm and of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents. A long-time Democratic donor, he has demonstrated fundraising prowess in the crowded Democratic primary race for governor, but he has not cracked the top tier of candidates in recent polling.
Scott, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, has risen to prominence in Democratic circles with his sharp criticism of the city’s handling of its escalating homicide rate. He grew up in Park Heights and has represented Northeast Baltimore since 2011.
The pairing of an experienced former litigator with a rising voice in the party prompted some Scott supporters to re-evaluate Shea’s candidacy.
"My bar raises with him tapping Brandon Scott," said Baltimore Del. Cory McCray, a Democrat who said he likes several candidates but hasn't endorsed anyone yet.
McCray said that the combination of Shea and Scott in state government would ensure that people who understand the challenges and strengths of Baltimore intimately would be leading the effort to help it.
Democratic strategist Quincey Gamble, who is not affiliated with any of the seven candidates who have launched formal campaigns, said Shea’s choice demonstrates an awareness that many Democrats are seeking new leaders.
“In picking Brandon, Jim Shea definitely shows that he is in tune with the fact that the Democratic Party needs new voices and new faces,” Gamble said. “Shea needed a game-changer, and I think this will open eyes and will at least make some people take a second look.”
Scott, who does not have to give up his seat on the council to run for lieutenant governor, said he thinks his story of growing up in a challenging part of Baltimore will resonate with voters across the state.
He said he intends to remain focused on his council duties.
“Even through this campaign, Baltimore will always be in my heart, and Baltimore will never be forgotten,” Scott said.
Shea and Scott said they met last spring when Shea sought Scott’s guidance on some policy issues, and they both walked away impressed with each other. Shea said that he considered other candidates, but settled on Scott without formal vetting or asking anyone else if they wanted the job.
If they won the state’s top jobs, Scott said, he would focus on public education and public health. He said he considers crime to be a public health issue.
Shea is the second candidate recognized by the party to announce a running mate ahead of the Feb. 27 filing deadline. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous is running with former Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Turnbull.
Other declared candidates in the race are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, tech entrepreneur and author Alec Ross, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno and former Michelle Obama adviser Krish Vignarajah.
Perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe has also filed to run with his sister, Freda Jaffe, in the June 26 Democratic primary.
The winner will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.