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Kraft says he won't seek re-election to City Council

Longtime City Councilman James B. Kraft has announced that he will not seek re-election to his Southeast Baltimore seat but intends to appear on the 2016 primary ballot for a yet-to-be-announced position.

Kraft, in a statement prepared for constituents, said he wanted to give anyone interested in running to represent District 1 plenty of time.

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"We face many challenges," Kraft, 65, said. "I hope that when the time comes, you will support me in my effort."

He declined to say what office he might seek. In 2016, Baltimore residents will vote for mayor, City Council president and comptroller. Some Circuit Court judgeships also are expected to be on the ballot.

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Kraft's council district includes Brewers Hill, Canton, Fells Point and Little Italy. He lives in Patterson Park with his wife.

The councilman has about $115,000 in his campaign account, which he could use to run for another office in Maryland.

Kraft, who was first elected to the council in 2004, serves as chairman of the judiciary and legislative investigations committee, among other assignments. He is the only lawyer on the council. In his general practice, he handles such matters as wills and estates.

He has been a longtime champion of environmental issues, including pushing for restrictions on plastic bags and plastic-foam containers, and has clashed at times with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. He is among the council members pushing to weaken the mayor's power after her vetoes of legislation to ban plastic bags and require police to wear body cameras.

Kraft has said constituents have told him they're frustrated that the council is undercut by the mayor. He supports a bill that would ask voters to amend the city charter to restructure the city's five-member spending panel, which is controlled by the mayor, and make it easier for the council to override mayoral vetoes.

Rawlings-Blake told reporters Wednesday that she's not sure what problems the restructuring legislation is intended to fix. She said she doesn't often hear from people who want to change the makeup of the Board of Estimates or who have an opinion about her veto power.

"Before we dramatically change a structure of government that has worked well for decades, I think it's fair to ask if the proposed changes really get to any suggested problems," she said. She said the city has "enough problems that we have to deal with without inventing them."

Rawlings-Blake has signed more than 650 pieces of legislation into law and vetoed three.

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