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Field set in Baltimore State's Attorney's race as Mosby, challengers file

Field set in Baltimore State's Attorney's race as Mosby, challengers file
Kelly Norton, elections supervisor, hands documents to Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is filed for re-election at the State Board of Elections late Tuesday afternoon. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

The field is set in the race for Baltimore state’s attorney, with incumbent Marilyn J. Mosby formally filing for re-election and two attorneys making their candidacy to unseat her official.

Mosby and former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah filed their paperwork Tuesday, the last day to file, while defense attorney Ivan Bates filed his paperwork Monday.

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All are running as Democrats, and there is no Republican challenger, meaning that the race will be decided in the June primary election.

Mosby became one of the youngest top prosecutors in the country when elected in 2014, promising to drive down crime in a year when the city endured 211 homicides. While she has introduced youth programs and increased funding for victims and witnesses, gun violence has surged above 300 killings each year of her term.

“The crime that has taken place has been disheartening — I think it’s completely unacceptable,” Mosby said. “We have more work to do. I’m looking to ensure we’re building that bridge among law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the communities it serves.”

Mosby invoked federal politics when asked why she is seeking another term: “We have to get this right, and I feel right now with a federal administration that is touting regression as ‘making America great again,’ this is the importance of these local races and positions.”

Though there was little doubt she would run for re-election, Mosby had been mum until recently about her plans, and is still working to get a campaign staff together.

Her campaign provided a poll by a Democratic research firm, Lake Research Partners, that shows her with 49 percent of likely primary voters, 40 percent undecided and her challengers in the single digits. The survey says 63 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Mosby.

Bates, a former assistant state’s attorney who is one of the top defense attorneys in the city, said Mosby has been ineffective as a crime-fighter. His website features a counter listing the number of crimes under her tenure, and he said a brain drain in the office has led to weak prosecutions he saw firsthand as a defense attorney.

“Crime’s out of control, the State’s Attorney’s Office is in complete disarray,” Bates said Tuesday. “The message is clear: There’s no accountability within the criminal justice system in Baltimore City. I’m the only candidate with experience as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I understand what the system needs to hold people accountable and make sure it works for everyone.”

Vignarajah is running as a reformer, saying Mosby’s rhetoric doesn’t match her actions as state’s attorney. He said his office will stop prosecuting victims of addiction for petty offenses, support immigrants and oppose mandatory minimum sentences. He’s pledged to refuse campaign contributions from the bail industry and employees of the state’s attorney’s office. He said he was running because “enough is enough.”

“Reclaiming our city will require vigilance and transparency. It will also require rebuilding relationships between prosecutors and police and community,” Vignarajah wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “I’m not just going to complain about the mess — I’m going to clean it up.”

Vignarajah walked in to file his paperwork at the exact time Mosby was scheduled to file for re-election. She entered later and the candidates shook hands, with Vignarajah wishing her good luck.

He leads the money race. As of the most recent fundraising reporting in mid-January, Vignarajah had $412,000 on hand, including $175,000 in contributions and a $250,000 loan he gave his campaign.

Mosby reported about $285,000 on hand after raising about $330,000 over the past year. Bates has $184,000 to campaign with after raising $250,000.

Asked whether her office had scrutinized the officers indicted in the Gun Trace Task Force case or taken a harder line with officers with credibility issues, Mosby pointed to the Freddie Gray case.

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“I haven’t soft-pedaled” the issue, she said.

The Gun Trace Task Force case featured “some of the same issues I tried to alert the public to when I dropped the cases in Freddie Gray,” she said.

Though none of the officers were convicted, she maintained that the charging of the officers in Gray’s death led to the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation of the Baltimore Police Department.

“After I made the assertions within the statement of probable cause, they came in a week later … and exposed the discriminatory policing practices of one of the largest police departments in the country,” she said.

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