Democratic nominee for mayor, Catherine Pugh, talks about the primary election results. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun video)
State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh wants Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to join her administration, the Democratic nominee for mayor said Wednesday.
Pugh, who won Tuesday's primary election and is expected to sail to victory in November, said she wants to build on outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration but intends to fire embattled Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano.
"This is my dream job. If anyone was to ask me what job I would ever want and where I thought I could make the greatest impact, it would be this job," Pugh told The Baltimore Sun. "Everything I have done to this point has prepared me for this."
Pugh beat a dozen candidates to win the Democratic contest, which drew the largest turnout for a Baltimore primary since at least 1999. An analysis of election returns shows she owes her 3-point lead over former Mayor Sheila Dixon, her closest competitor, to a strong turnout for her during the eight-day early voting period this month.
Pugh will face Republican nominee Alan Walden and third-party challengers in November. In Baltimore, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1, the winner of the Democratic primary has for decades gone on to become mayor.
Rawlings-Blake, who did not seek re-election, said Wednesday that she has a "very good working relationship" with Pugh and is grateful that while on the campaign trail Pugh told voters she wanted to continue some of Rawlings-Blake's programs.
"Out of the candidates that were running, she was the most clear that she is not interested in dismantling the progress that I've made," said Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor in 2010 when Dixon left office after a misdemeanor conviction for embezzlement.
Rawlings-Blake did not support a candidate during the primary. She pledged Wednesday to help Pugh during her transition into office.
Pugh said she would undertake a full review of city agencies to determine what other top officials she might want to keep in office and who she wants to replace. Pugh said months ago that she would replace Graziano, who came under fire for an alleged sex-for-repairs scandal involving maintenance workers at public housing complexes.
Pugh praised Jason Perkins-Cohen, who Rawlings-Blake appointed a year ago to lead the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. She said she is interested in the "wonderful ideas and energy" of some of the candidates in the Democratic primary, such as engineer Calvin Allen Young III and former bank operations manager Patrick Gutierrez. She said she had not figured out what role, if any, they might play in a Pugh administration.
"I will evaluate where we are, what is good about what we're doing, and what's great about what we're doing and what we can fix," Pugh said.
Pugh said she expects to talk with Rawlings-Blake about steps toward a transition.
T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said Davis wants to stay on the job. The police commissioner believes he can bring continuity to help stabilize the department.
"He would certainly want to see things through," Smith said. "He is committed to staying on and being a part of the next administration."
Wen said she, too, wants to stay. "I am fully committed to working with Senator Pugh and our other leaders to fight against deep-rooted injustices and to ensure that all of Baltimore's residents can reach their full health potential," she said in a statement.
The primary election, one year after the unrest that rocked the city following the death of Freddie Gray from spinal injuries suffered in police custody, drew 130,000 voters to city polls. The turnout surpassed that for the 2008 primary, which led to the Democratic presidential nomination of then-Sen. Barack Obama; 113,000 voted in Baltimore that year.
The General Assembly voted in 2012 to move the mayoral election to presidential election years to increase voter turnout after a poor showing in the 2011 city primary.
With 97 percent of votes counted, Dixon won the most votes on Election Day, with about 800 more than Pugh. But during early voting from April 14 to April 21, Pugh received about 3,600 more votes than Dixon.
"We campaigned every single day," Pugh said. "No one had as much of a ground game as we did going into this election."
Pugh said she believed she was hurt on Election Day by negative campaigning by her opponents in the final days.
"They were vicious," she said. "They were wrong. They were mean-spirited. ... Negativity at some point impacts others. It changes people's opinions."
Meanwhile, the results of eight precincts and absentee ballots — representing as many as several thousand votes — had yet to be counted. City election chief Armstead B. Crowley Jones Jr. said officials were searching for the missing files.
The Dixon campaign said five of the eight missing precincts are in West Baltimore, where the former mayor's support is strongest.
"Since the first day of early voting, the validity of this election has been in doubt," Dixon spokeswoman Martha McKenna said. "Now there are thousands of votes from West Baltimore that have not been counted and are still missing."
Pugh said she was "not at all worried" about the results of the primary being reversed.
Early voting also proved significant for the winners of the 14 Democratic primaries for City Council. Each candidate who led after early voting ended up winning the race.
In Southeast Baltimore's 1st District, educator Zeke Cohen won a close race with 27 percent of the votes; Councilman Brandon Scott easily carried Northeast Baltimore's 2nd District with 74.5 percent; and newcomer Ryan Dorsey won Northeast Baltimore's 3rd District with 40.4 percent.
In North Baltimore, Councilman Bill Henry fended off a tough challenge in the 4th District, carrying 41.5 percent of the vote; business owner Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer won narrowly in Northwest Baltimore's 5th District with 33 percent; and incumbent Sharon Green Middleton cruised to victory in Northwest Baltimore's 6th District.
In West Baltimore's 7th District, city official Leon F. Pinkett III won a close race with 24.4 percent of the votes; newcomer Kristerfer Burnett won Southwest Baltimore's 8th District with 29.5 percent; and West Baltimore's 9th District went to Towson University political science professor John Bullock, who unseated incumbent William "Pete" Welch with 50.9 percent.
In South Baltimore, Council Vice President Ed Reisinger narrowly hung on for victory with 37 percent of the votes in the 10th District, while Councilman Eric T. Costello had an impressive showing in the 11th District with 55 percent. Robert Stokes Sr. carried central Baltimore's 12th District with 32.8 percent.
In East Baltimore's 13th District, community activist Shannon Sneed unseated incumbent Warren Branch, while longtime Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke won easily in North Baltimore's 14th District.