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Baltimore City Councilman James B. Kraft.
Baltimore City Councilman James B. Kraft.

Outgoing City Councilman James B. Kraft announced Tuesday withdrew as a candidate for Baltimore Circuit Court judge.

He was facing a slate of sitting judges — Shannon E. Avery, Audrey J.S. Carrion, Michael A. DiPietro, Karen Chaya Friedman, Wanda Keyes Heard and Cynthia H. Jones — for one of six seats on the Circuit Court.

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Kraft had edged out one of the six sitting judges during the Republican primary in April, earning him a spot on the general election ballot. Because judicial elections are nonpartisan, candidates had to place in the top six in either the Democratic or Republican primary to compete in November.

The judges will be elected to 15-year terms.

Kraft said he dropped out of the November contest because he was disappointed by the tone of the primary election and did not think winning in the general election was possible. The names on the sample ballots distributed by Democrats that will be distributed throughout Baltimore will "start with Hillary Clinton and end with the sitting judges," he said.

"I looked at how the election was conducted and looked at how the general election was going to be," Kraft said. "I knew there was no way I could win in November."

H. Mark Stichel, chairman of the Baltimore City Sitting Judges Committee, said in heavily Democratic Baltimore, substantially more people voted for the six sitting judges who won the Democratic primary than for Kraft in the Republican contest.

"As a practical matter, it would have been very difficult for him to pull off a victory in November," Stichel said. "Had he not withdrawn, we would have waged a full-scale campaign."

The primary campaign was heated at times.

The judges circulated a flier that noted that if elected, Kraft, now 67, would face mandatory retirement at age 70. The mailer displayed an image of a gold parachute and said Kraft was trying to "avoid … a rigorous evaluation by a non-partisan commission."

Circuit judges in Maryland are typically appointed by the governor to fill vacancies after being evaluated by a nonpartisan commission. They then have to run in the first general election following their appointment.

Kraft has called the flier an "appeal to discriminate against me because of my age." He said it also wrongly suggests he is vying for a judicial pension. "To imply so is a reckless disregard of the truth," he said earlier this year.

Kraft, a Democrat, choose not to seek re-election to the Southeast Baltimore council seat he has held for more than a decade. He has said he wanted to forego the judicial appointment process and petition voters directly, because he would ultimately have to face an election, even if appointed.

If Kraft had gone on to win in November, he would have been the first person to unseat an incumbent judge in more than 30 years.

The state Board of Elections website shows Kraft withdrew on Aug. 23.

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