Veteran defense attorney Russell A. Neverdon Sr. brought about 6,000 signatures to the city's Board of Elections on Monday — a total that, if verified, will put him on November's ballot as an independent candidate for Baltimore state's attorney.
With his family by his side, Neverdon, 46, pointed to the petition effort as evidence his candidacy has grass-roots support. "We've spent sleepless nights, long weekends, long days," Neverdon said. "The citizens of Baltimore spoke, and they want a choice."
The Board of Elections must review the petitions to determine whether Neverdon did, indeed, collect the signatures of 4,150 registered voters as required under Maryland law. If certified, Neverdon would face Democrat Marilyn J. Mosby, who upset incumbent State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein in the June 24 primary. No Republican is running.
Mosby, 34, a former city prosecutor, said in an email she has widespread support and stressed her party affiliation in deep-blue Baltimore.
"Last June, more than 35,000 Democrats turned out in the primary to support my nomination to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. Should a candidate from another party qualify for the fall ballot, I look forward to doubling down on my promise to bring progressive leadership to the State's Attorney's Office," she said.
Neverdon supporters carried the signatures to the elections office in a safe — a move they said was necessary after some petitions were burned during a fire in May at Neverdon's campaign headquarters. The office on North Avenue was "completely destroyed" by a "mysterious" fire, Neverdon said.
Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Ian Brennan confirmed that a blaze caused by "electrical fault" occurred May 16 in the first block of E. North Ave.
"My floor was the only floor that caught on fire. We lost items," Neverdon said. "Using a fireproof safe "was the best way," he said. "We wanted to make sure there was nothing left to chance."
Neverdon has a fundraising disadvantage. The latest reports, in June, showed he had $5,000 on hand compared with Mosby's $44,000. Mosby is supported by a majority of the City Council and is allied with noted fundraiser Colleen Martin-Lauer.
But Neverdon, a Polytechnic Institute graduate, said he is undeterred by his opponent's campaign treasury. "The mere fact that we got more than 6,000 signatures speaks volumes," he said.
He contrasted his experience with Mosby's, pointing out that he was a military police officer, managed his own law office for 15 years, and tried hundreds of cases — including some high-profile trials — in city and federal courts. Mosby most recently has worked as an insurance company lawyer. She previously served as a city prosecutor for six years, mostly handling misdemeanors.
Neverdon said Baltimore voters were eager for someone other than Bernstein to lead the office.
"They got change," he said. "Now they have an opportunity to have change, but with experience."
Despite his status as an independent, Neverdon also stressed his roots in the Democratic Party.
"I have deep Democratic values," he said, adding that registering recently as an independent "was a move [so] that all citizens of Baltimore would have a voice."
Mosby, whose husband, Nick, is a member of the City Council, easily defeated Bernstein by 10 percentage points in June.
Christy Stewart, a spokeswoman for Neverdon, said she expects many Bernstein supporters will back Neverdon. She said the campaign will announce endorsements in coming weeks. The general election is Nov. 4.