To cheers of supporters, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy announced yesterday, at her annual birthday fundraiser, that she will seek re-election next year.
On the deck of the Baltimore Rowing Club overlooking the city's skyline, Jessamy told supporters her announcement was designed to quell rumors - but stopped short of specifying what the buzz was about.
"There have been all these rumors," she said, stopping for a slight pause, "and I'm running for state's attorney, all right."
An ally of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Jessamy - a Democrat - has been rumored to be among his short list of choices for lieutenant governor should Michael S. Steele run for U.S. Senate next year.
Others have speculated she might be tapped by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who has sought her support in his all-but-declared bid for governor next year.
Duncan was among the public officials, friends of Jessamy and members of her staff at the $57-a-head barbecue fundraiser. Jessamy was celebrating her 57th birthday.
In an interview, Jessamy said she wouldn't leave the state's attorney's office until she sees the last of three goals: a city courthouse to replace the two aging downtown courthouses, and where her staff could work more effectively in one central location.
Jessamy said she accomplished her other two goals - increasing salaries of her staff attorneys to be on par to similar jurisdictions and updating office technology.
Supporters said she's done more than that.
"She has been successful because what she has done has worked," said Baltimore police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm. "She has galvanized the people of Baltimore. You can't be successful in this city without the support of the community."
Inside the club, supporters munched on barbecued chicken, corn on the cob and burgers as Jessamy danced with Hamm to a rendition of the Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," with Duncan clapping in the background.
Meanwhile, a handful of demonstrators gathered outside, calling for an indictment in the killing of Raymond K. Smoot, 51, who died after being beaten by guards at the city's troubled Central Booking and Intake Center this spring.
Protestors chanted, "Indictment now," while a sign read, "Justice for Smoot."
Jessamy said her office would "shortly" make a decision on possible criminal charges in the killing.
"I may not be on their timetable," she said. "But I will do so when the time is right, after reviewing all of the evidence."
It's the latest criticism levied at the 20-year veteran of the state's attorney's office.
While some have accused Jessamy of being ineffective in prosecuting violent offenders, supporters insisted she has been unfairly blamed for the city's stubborn crime problems.
And Jessamy's difficult relationship with Mayor Martin O'Malley has resulted in an on-again, off-again exchange of political barbs.
Jessamy has blamed O'Malley for shortchanging her office's budget, while O'Malley criticized her effectiveness, including a profanity-laden tirade over Jessamy's decision not to prosecute a police officer accused of planting drugs. But this summer, they came to what appeared to be truce, with the mayor agreeing to boost Jessamy's budget - increasing the requested $2.2 million by $600,000.
O'Malley was invited to her fundraiser but was away on vacation, Jessamy said.
Jessamy joined the state's attorney's office as a prosecutor in 1985, and succeeded Stuart O. Simms when he resigned in 1995. She ran unopposed in 1998, and in 2002 won re-election in a three-way race ahead of then-City Councilwoman Lisa Joi Stancil and Baltimore lawyer Anton J.S. Keating.