The former head of the Baltimore County NAACP is running for County Council in a district that was at the center of the county’s redistricting conflict.
Tony Fugett of Owings Mills filed paperwork Thursday to seek election in District 2, now represented by Councilman Izzy Patoka. Both are Democrats.
Fugett is a plaintiff in a redistricting lawsuit in which civil rights groups and county voters backed by the ACLU of Maryland say County Council district maps initially drawn last year would unlawfully dilute Black residents’ votes.
Fugett, 68, led the county NAACP for two decades, stepping down as branch president in 2021. He said Thursday that he has considered for some time how he could continue in public service.
“This opportunity presents itself to do just that,” Fugett said.
Fugett said he was disappointed in how the County Council handled redistricting. All seven members, including Patoka, last year voted in favor of a map that a federal judge later found likely violated the federal Voting Rights Act. They have since revised the council boundaries in a new map.
“I thought that the leadership was lacking,” said Fugett, who works for the state as director of Maryland’s Central Collection Unit.
Patoka, of Pikesville, was elected in 2018 and is seeking a second four-year term. He is the former director of community development for LifeBridge Health.
Patoka, 64, said he’s “prepared to run a robust campaign.”
“We always anticipated that there would be a challenger in the race,” he said.
Patoka said he’s proud of his work on issues including open space and police reform. During the coronavirus pandemic, his office has aided constituents dealing with the economic and health consequences of COVID-19 and served as “a trusted source” of information on testing and vaccines, he said.
Council members are paid $62,500.
The Morning Sun
Campaign finance reports released in January showed Patoka over the past year raised significantly more campaign money than others on the council, with more than $625,000 on hand as of that month.
Fugett said he believes “money isn’t everything” and wants to focus on his track record in the community.
U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby in February blocked the county from using the first council map, which had been approved in 2021, and ordered a new map with council boundaries that would comply with federal law.
Those suing county leaders pointed to a history of racially polarized voting among county residents. The county population is nearly one-third Black; one of the seven current council members is Black.
Griggsby later accepted a new county map, over the objections of the plaintiffs, who say the reconfigured boundaries still don’t present a level playing field for Black voters. The groups have said they’re considering next steps in the case.
District 2, which includes communities such as Owings Mills and Pikesville, was among those in question in the legal conflict. Under the map approved by Griggsby, the district now includes a Black voting-age population of about 41% and a white voting-age population of about 46%.
The primary election is scheduled for July 19.