City Councilman Martin O'Malley, the Democratic nominee for mayor, is recommending Councilwoman Stephanie Rawlings for vice president of the council -- a boost for Rawlings, who would become the mayor's floor leader during debates in the city legislature.
Rawlings would have to garner a majority vote in the council to take the post, but Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, the Democratic nominee for council president, said she believes Rawlings will have the needed votes.
"I'm supporting [Rawlings] because of the fact that she's such a serious council person," O'Malley said. "I've known Stephanie for the last four years. She's one of the few attorneys on the council. She's one who understands the criminal justice system."
Rawlings' knowledge of criminal justice issues will likely play a major role in an O'Malley administration because crime has been his campaign's primary focus. O'Malley faces Republican nominee David F. Tufaro in the general election Nov. 2.
O'Malley's decision is a sensitive one. He is working to balance the interests of state Del. Howard P. Rawlings -- Stephanie Rawlings' father and influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee -- and state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a close friend of O'Malley's who wanted current council Vice President Agnes B. Welch to remain in the post.
Welch, who held the post during the council's last term, did not back Dixon for council president in the Democratic primary, creating a political rift between the two.
Del. Rawlings and Conway were among the top African-American political leaders in the state who backed O'Malley's campaign, endorsing him over council President Lawrence A. Bell III and Carl Stokes, the two leading African-American mayoral candidates. Stephanie Rawlings also was one of the first African-American politicians to back O'Malley and encouraged her father to endorse the mayoral candidate.
In addition to serving as the mayor's floor leader in the council, the vice president runs council meetings when the president is absent.