Two candidates speak about the special election for president of the Baltimore branch NAACP.
Kobi Little, an official with the state NAACP, has been elected president of the civil rights organization’s Baltimore chapter.
During a sparsely attended meeting Saturday at the Baltimore Urban League offices at Orchard Street United Methodist Church, Little defeated educator and former city housing official Michael Eugene Johnson, 49-20.
“We started this journey 24 years ago, when I launched my first campaign for the presidency of this branch,” the 47-year-old Little, political action chairman of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, said after the votes had been counted and the results posted. “We will take a second to reflect, and then we will get to work, building this branch, building its capacity and its strength.”
Little said he plans to focus on the Nov. 6 general election, getting out the vote and urging support for ballot initiatives, including Question 2, which would allow for Election Day voter registration.
The new chapter president acknowledged that his most immediate challenge will be to “boost the branch’s membership.”
The Baltimore City NAACP, which was stripped of its powers last fall and continues to face internal controversies, hopes an election in the fall will provide a much-needed reset for the historically powerful branch.
The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, founded in 1912, has spent much of the past year in tumult. In those 12 months, one president resigned and her successor was suspended by the organization’s national office.
In October 2017, the national NAACP put the Baltimore chapter under the control of Gerald Stansbury, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference. Sandra Almond-Cooper, who ran unopposed Saturday for the office of second vice president, has been serving as interim chapter president.
Under normal circumstances, an election for president would have been held next month. But given the chapter’s recent history, the national NAACP office called for a special election and asked Stansbury to oversee it.
Johnson, 63, complained of the seeming rush to hold an election, saying it gave him little time to organize support and gave members little time to consider the issues. He said the haste to carry out the election, as well as scheduling it on the same day as Morgan State University’s homecoming celebration, Maryland Fleet Week and other events, contributed to the low turnout.
“He got his 40 people out, I got my 20-something people out,” Johnson said, promising to “extend my hand for some assistance, if he wants to have it. I’ll keep an eye on the branch and I’ll try to work to build the branch up.”
As voting was set to begin Saturday, Little said he had been busy signing people up to join the chapter and spreading the word about his candidacy. He mailed full-color postcards to members, laying out his vision and qualifications for the office, and handed out more in advance of the vote.
While the election process isn’t perfect, Little said, he’s glad the vote was taking place – hopefully allowing the chapter to move forward.
“I’m glad that the branch is turning the page,” he said.
Following the vote, Stansbury admitted he “expected more” of a turnout, but said he is optimistic about the branch’s future.
“We’re ready to move forward,” he said. “They seem very excited about moving the branch forward. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. …I think we’ve got a team we can work with.”