At a "Back to School" Rally in West Baltimore Sunday, Councilman Nick J. Mosby is working the crowd. He's giving out 500 fully stuffed backpacks and talking about citywide issues that need solutions — such as how to deal with dirt bikes and crime — as the New Baltimore Twilighters Marching Band thumps out the hits.
There's one question on people's minds: Will Mosby, a first-term councilman representing some of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods, enter the race for mayor?
"I told him to run," said Hiawatha Howard, 61, who grew up in nearby Coppin Heights. "I hope he's our next mayor."
Mosby, who says he's wanted the city's top job since age 8, said Sunday he's "seriously considering" a run for mayor. Already, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Mayor Sheila Dixon are in the field of candidates. But Mosby says he can offer voters something they can't: "New energy."
"I know I can lead the city," he said. "I know I have the managerial skills and the experience to do so. We can't expect these old leaders to take us in a new direction. Baltimore is hungry for change."
Mosby's four years on the City Council have seen him sponsor some high-profile legislation, including a "Ban the Box" bill that disallows employers from asking about a person's criminal record early in the hiring process, and a law barring minors from entering liquor stores. With his wife, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, he has led "Enough is Enough" anti-violence walks in West Baltimore, and holds a "Get Fit" fitness challenge with his constituents.
"I am a product of Baltimore," he said. "I'm born and raised here. I'm the product of a single-parent home. I'm the product of the city school system. I've seen the worst of Baltimore and I've seen best of Baltimore. I can stand on any corner or in any board room."
Political analysts believe the race for Baltimore mayor could get crowded in 2016. In addition to Rawlings-Blake and Dixon, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, State Del. Jill P. Carter, and Councilman Carl Stokes are considering runs. Author Wes Moore, an educator and army veteran who had previously ruled out running, recently began leaving the door open to entering the race.
In recent weeks, Baltimoreans have reported getting asked questions in a telephone poll about whether they would support Mosby for mayor. He had declined to discuss his future plans beyond his district — until this week.
With Baltimore reeling from April's rioting and city's deadliest month in recent history — when 45 people were killed by homicide in July — Mosby said he feels called to consider higher office.
"You can't really pick your time in life," he said. "I'm seriously considering running because I think now might be that time."
Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, said he suspects Mosby could do well in a three-way race with Rawlings-Blake and Dixon.
"The voters have heard from Sheila Dixon and the mayor, and they're probably a little tired of them," he said. "Sheila Dixon is tarnished by the conviction and Rawlings-Blake by the riot."
He said Mosby's biggest issue may be a perceived conflict-of-interest in office, given that his wife is the city's top prosecutor.
"His campaign is going to be a little complicated by his relationship with the state's attorney," Crenson said. "He already had to cancel one fundraiser because they used his wife's image. On the other hand, she's given him a ready-made national reputation. It might be that the voters will be taken with that."
Mosby said he sees no problem with he and his wife serving as mayor and state's attorney, respectively.
"Marilyn and I are deeply committed to the city of Baltimore," he said. "We bought a house here 11 years ago. I've wanted to serve in this capacity since I was 8 years old. She wanted to be a chief prosecutor since she was 14 years old. We happened to meet in college, fall in love and pursue our dreams."
Three Democrats have so far filed to run for mayor: Richard Black, an accountant; Mack Clifton, a minister and author; and Calvin Allen Young III, an engineer. Two independent candidates also have filed: Collins Otonna and Connor Meek. Candidates not affiliated with Maryland's four recognized political parties must gather more than 4,000 signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot.