Banking another major endorsement in the effort to retain her position as City Council president, Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake will announce today that she has the support of U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
The announcement will be made formally this afternoon in Reservoir Hill, weeks after Rawlings-Blake received the formal backing of longtime ally Gov. Martin O'Malley. It is the latest endorsement in a race that appears to be considerably more competitive than this year's mayoral contest.
"She has prepared herself for this opportunity. Baltimore needs someone with this experience," Cummings said. "We're blessed to have all very good candidates, but she will be the one who I'll vote for."
A poll conducted for The Sun in mid-July found that Rawlings-Blake was running even with her chief opponent in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, community activist Michael Sarbanes. Another candidate, City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., received much less support. A fourth candidate, Charles Ulysses Smith, is virtually unknown. More than a third of respondents to the survey said they were undecided.
Rawlings-Blake was 25 when she took office in 1995 as the youngest person ever to win a council election, representing a portion of Northwest Baltimore. Four years later, she encouraged her father, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, to endorse O'Malley, then a colleague on the council, for mayor. The backing of the powerful African-American delegate boosted O'Malley's credibility as a white candidate in a predominantly black city.
She was elected president by her council colleagues in January, filling the vacancy left when Sheila Dixon became mayor to serve out the remainder of O'Malley's term.
In May, Rawlings-Blake introduced a resolution calling on Dixon to spend $2 million from a city surplus fund for police recruitment. It was ultimately tabled under pressure from the mayor. Another resolution, calling on the state for financial aid to pay for a police recruitment campaign, was approved.
Rawlings-Blake and Sarbanes supported an inclusionary housing bill approved by the City Council this year that will require developers of market-price homes to reserve units for low- and moderate-income buyers.
Separately last night, Sarbanes -- son of former U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes -- unveiled a summary of much of his platform, including his proposal to borrow $100 million to redevelop and rehabilitate vacant properties and a proposed "vacant property fee" that would be imposed on owners of abandoned properties.
"We can make Baltimore better, block by block. Let's start doing it now," Sarbanes said during a fundraiser at an Inner Harbor hotel. "It's time to raise the expectation of this city."
Rawlings-Blake has been endorsed by several prominent unions -- though Sarbanes received the backing of the city's police union -- and by members of the City Council. Cummings' endorsement is noteworthy given his close relationship with the Sarbanes family and with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is backing Harris.
"He has a true commitment to the next generation for Baltimore," Rawlings-Blake said of Cummings. "Before he made a decision about who he was going to endorse in this race, he wanted to make sure that that person not only shared that vision but had the capacity to deliver."
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