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Baltimore voters send a clear message in tight mayoral race | COMMENTARY

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott and former mayor Sheila Dixon pose for a photo following the forum. The Greater Baltimore Urban League hosted a Baltimore City Mayoral Candidate Forum at Morgan State University on Saturday, January 25.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott and former mayor Sheila Dixon pose for a photo following the forum. The Greater Baltimore Urban League hosted a Baltimore City Mayoral Candidate Forum at Morgan State University on Saturday, January 25. (Ulysses Muñoz)

City Council President Brandon Scott was declared the winner of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday night, and we wish him well. It was an incredibly tight race, with less than 2,500 votes separating Mr. Scott from runner up and former mayor, Sheila Dixon, with less than 1,000 ballots left to count. Given that, and the many mistakes that went into the handling of this mostly-mail-in election and the plentiful opportunities for legal challenge, we expect it might still be some time before we have a “final” result.

But one thing has been clear for days now. By narrowing the field to a neck-and-neck race between these two particular contenders, voters have sent a message that they care about three things above all else: crime, connection and commitment.

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Crime. On the City Council, Brandon Scott, 36, chaired the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. He grew up in the city’s Park Heights neighborhood, where too many people gave their lives to the drug trade, and he understands the toll violence takes on children. He’s made targeting guns and violent repeat offenders — using tried-and-true methods of direct intervention — his top priority. The last time such intervention was used regularly with success happened to have been during Ms. Dixon’s mayoral term, from 2007-2010, a period when there was a coinciding drop in shootings that by 2011 led the city’s homicide rate to dip below 200 (compared to last year’s 348). City residents clearly want to see such success again — and soon.

Connection. Ms. Dixon, 66, did so well in this race largely because she has a strong base of supporters who have stuck by her through thick and thin — including a corruption trial and finding by jurors that she had taken gift cards meant for the city’s poor (she resigned as mayor in 2010 as part of a plea deal that would allow her record to remain clean). They stick with her because they know her and believe in her. She’s a lifelong city resident who knows Baltimore and is visible. People see her in the store, at the gym, at church and feel connected to her. She is one of them. Mr. Scott, too, is likewise well known in the city; he frequently drives around in his city-issued SUV checking up on it — talking with people and logging issues like broken lights. He’s so respected among young people, that youth organizers called upon him to help keep the peace during protests here in response to the callous killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

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Commitment. Despite his own relative youth, Mr. Scott already has 10 years public service under his belt, first as a staffer in the City Council president’s office, then as a Northeast Baltimore councilman and later City Council president and now, the presumptive mayor. He’s shown his commitment to Baltimore by showing up — again and again. His passion and dedication to the city are clear. Ms. Dixon also has put in a significant amount of time in the city. She was elected to the City Council in 1987, serving two decades there (including as City Council president) before becoming mayor in 2007. There’s no doubt she loves this city, despite her transgressions, and is committed to it for the long haul.

There are, of course, many differences between the two, especially when it comes to their relationships with the business community. But voters have shown that it might be the similarities that matter most. Knowing that the winner of the Democratic primary is the likely winner of the General Election as well, we hope Mr. Scott prioritizes them in the future. Congratulations.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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