State Senator Lisa A. Gladden will endorse David L. Warnock for mayor Tuesday, saying Baltimore needs a change and "he's the change we need."
Gladden, who represents Northwest Baltimore, plans to appear with Warnock by the Thurgood Marshall memorial on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis to announce her support for the venture capitalist and philanthropist in his bid to succeed Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
For Warnock, it is the first significant endorsement by a prominent elected official in his novice bid for political office. Gladden's support could be significant because she is African-American and he is a white candidate seeking the Democratic nomination in a majority black city.
Gladden said some of her political acquaintances told her not to back Warnock because Baltimore needed an African-American mayor.
"I said, 'Why?'" she said.
Gladden said she didn't know Warnock before he announced his candidacy for mayor last year. She said she called him "out of the blue" and asked him why he was running.
"He said, 'I want to give back to the city that gave me so much,'" she said. "I think he's the right voice for Baltimore."
In choosing Warnock, Gladden is passing over a former mayor, Sheila Dixon; a Senate colleague, Catherine E. Pugh; City Council members Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby, among other candidates.
Gladden said she plans to campaign with Warnock around the city and to introduce him in African-American churches, as well as other places.
Warnock issued a statement praising Gladden as "a leader on so many important issues."
"For more than 17 years, she has been a voice for the children and families of our city and has worked tirelessly to make a positive difference," he said. "I am honored to have the support of Senator Gladden – together, we can turn Baltimore around.”
The endorsement is somewhat reminiscent of the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings' backing of Martin O'Malley when he first ran for mayor in the 1999 election. Like Warnock, O'Malley was a white candidate struggling to gain traction in the African-American community.
The backing of Rawlings, the House Appropriations Committee chairman and at the time and arguably the most powerful black legislator in Maryland, helped give O'Malley the legitimacy that propelled him to victory.
There are significant differences. While Gladden is a fourth-term senator, she doesn't carry nearly the clout of Rawlings, father of the current mayor. And O'Malley, far from an unknown, was a city councilman with a high degree of visibility because of his criticism of then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's crime policies.
Though Gladden counts Rawlings as one of her political mentors, she said she hadn't thought of the similarities. She said the times were right for a nontraditional candidate.
"We need to do it because Baltimore is in crisis," she said. Gladden said Warnock's personal fortune, which allowed him to lend his campaign $1 million, could help him enlist the help of other wealthy individuals in projects that would benefit the city, she said.
Gladden said she wasn't worried about a backlash that could affect her re-election prospects in 2018.
"You can't get rid of me until I want to get rid of me," she said.