For Baltimore voters not satisfied with the direction Democrats have led the city in the past half-century, the five Republicans and three Greens running for mayor say they'll take a different approach to crime, mass transit and economic development.
Competing in the April 26 GOP primary are Armand F. Girard, a retired math teacher; Chancellor Torbit, the brother of a slain police officer; Brian Charles Vaeth, a former city firefighter; Alan Walden, a former WBAL radio anchor; and Larry O. Wardlow Jr., a transportation coordinator.
Activist Joshua Harris, former Marine David Marriott and Army veteran Emanuel McCray will compete May 1 in the Green Party primary.
Glenn E. Bushel, chairman of the Baltimore Republican Central Committee, said competitive elections help make healthier cities. The Republicans and Greens are among a field that also includes 13 Democrats seeking to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is not seeking re-election.
Bushel said he is not daunted by the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10-to-1 in Baltimore. Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin was the last Republican elected to city office in 1963.
"Competition is what has made this country and this city great, and without it, everybody suffers," Bushel said. "Crime is not moving in the right direction — plenty of issues need competitive attention."
The Greens have an even tougher battle. There are 1,100 registered Green Party voters to the city's 288,000 Democrats.
Andy Ellis, co-chair of the Baltimore Green Party, said the party's candidates each have a history of civic service and offer progressive plans for the city.
"The Greens will be putting forward a 21st-century urban policy that confronts the crisis of issues of economic fairness, racial justice and sustainable environmental policy," Ellis said. "For too long, Baltimore has been a one-party city."
Nina Kasniunas, an associate political science professor at Goucher College, said in overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore, candidates from other parties are unlikely to win. Unaffiliated voters make up the city's second-largest voting bloc, with 46,400 people registered in that category. Republicans have 30,500 voters, followed by Libertarians with 1,200.
Many, Kasniunas said, are running to take principled stands or because they believe uncontested elections are dangerous to democracy. To others, their political identify is as defining as their race or religion, she said.
Girard, 77, of North Baltimore, vowed to run so Democrats wouldn't have a "free ride" into office.
"There will be some hard questions from me," he said.
He wants the city to take a much more aggressive approach to crime, such as calling in the National Guard, and to cut property taxes in half to match the rate charged in Baltimore County and elsewhere. He is a former Army infantry officer who retired after teaching at Polytechnic Institute and Boys' Latin School.
Torbit, who did not respond to multiple interview requests, bills himself on his website as a "leader, mentor and a community member who advocates" for fellow residents.
"I am young, energetic and focused on creating a functional and accountable city in which all citizens' voices will be heard," he wrote.
Vaeth, who listed his address as Penn North on campaign filings, outlined a plan to replace the city's aging infrastructure over four years as part of a massive public works project that would put people to work. "Crime will be reduced because people will be working," he said in his campaign platform.
Walden, 79, of Cross Keys, said he wants to use his campaign to promote a "wholly different way of thinking of Baltimore" that focuses on the city's "treasure trove of recreational, cultural and historical attractions."
He wants residents to come together to "embrace what Baltimore is, not what it was or what it could be" and develop solutions to the challenges the city faces. To start, he said, the city needs to have more vibrant public transit, anchored by an electric rail system.
Wardlow, 40, of East Baltimore, said he is focused on turning empty schools into job training centers, finding suitable houses for the city's homeless and working with businesses to invest in communities by paying for recreation centers and other amenities.
"My vision is for no more Freddie Grays, where elderly can enjoy life without getting shot, where a 3-year-old can enjoy sitting out on the porch," said Wardlow, who helps run a cab company.
On the Green Party side, Harris, 29, of Southwest Baltimore, said he wants to scrub the city's budget from top to bottom to ensure youth programs and education are "properly financed." He also is concerned with police accountability, performing regular agency audits and availability of affordable housing.
"The single greatest issue in Baltimore is the distribution of capital: who gets it and who doesn't," Harris said. "When we talk about police brutality, there are at least five things that went wrong before we got to that point."
Harris reported $3,300 in his campaign account. None of the other Green or Republican candidates filed campaign finance reports, and many said they have raised little or no money.
Marriott, 36, of Belair-Edison, said he would focus on justice, education, peace and opportunities. He created a system he believes will better track officers' work throughout the day and any complaints against them. He wants to treat drug abuse as a health issue, rather than a police matter, and he wants to create a "job frenzy" by courting new companies.
"Baltimoreans need opportunities, not empty promises and this is why I am running to make Baltimore great again," Marriott said in an emailed response. "I will give Baltimore the edge, making it the best city to live in on the East Coast."
McCray, 36, of Poppleton said he has fought for a higher minimum wage, universal health care and paid sick leave as a leadership organizer for United Workers with various other campaigns. He wants to work for a higher quality of life for all city residents. Paying workers better and ensuring the city has enough affordable housing could be transformative, he said.
"I represent the have-nots of Baltimore," he said.