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Brandon Scott and Baltimore’s business leaders must find common ground | COMMENTARY

City Council President Brandon Scott announced his bid to run for mayor of Baltimore last September.
City Council President Brandon Scott announced his bid to run for mayor of Baltimore last September. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun)

One need look no further than the yard signs spread throughout North Baltimore to appreciate how Brandon M. Scott was never the top choice for mayor for many of Baltimore’s wealthiest and most influential residents. Mary Miller, the former U.S. Treasury under secretary and T. Rowe Price executive living in Guilford? Her signs were everywhere. Thiru Vignarajah, the onetime deputy state attorney general living in Federal Hill? No sign shortage either. But Mr. Scott, Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School Class of 2002 living in working-class Frankford? A handful, to be sure, but not exactly a Roland Park trendsetter. The talk among business leaders was that he was too young and undisciplined, too much of a bomb-thrower, too given to jumping from one political hot-button issue to the next.

And yet in the end, the City Council president threaded the political needle. In a race where, from the start, former Mayor Sheila Dixon held the advantage with supporters who have stood by her through thick and thin, including her 12-count indictment and plea agreement-mandated resignation, Mr. Scott cobbled together support from across the political spectrum. If Ms. Miller was the preferred candidate of the affluent and Mr. Vignarajah of those who favored a crackdown on crime, then the 36-year-old Mr. Scott was often their second choice — generally well-liked but not necessarily the darling of any one distinct voting bloc. The top choice of just enough (29.4%) to get him over the line.

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Mr. Scott’s apparent victory in the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday all but assures that he will serve as the city’s 60th mayor. Any possibility that he or any other Democratic nominee might be displaced for citywide office by a Republican or independent candidate in the November ballot is far-fetched at best. For better or worse, the GOP has made itself largely irrelevant in Charm City. Even another write-in campaign by Ms. Dixon would be a long-shot, given that very effort’s failure four years ago. Perhaps there is much celebration among the Scott campaign crew because of what he has accomplished in recent days. Yet that would be premature. There is much work still to be done.

What’s essential right now, this week even, is some kind of rapprochement between Mr. Scott and the business leaders who looked elsewhere for the city’s next leader. Who are these people? Here’s a partial list: the 211 individuals and organizations that campaign finance records show gave the maximum $6,000 to Ms. Miller and/or Mr. Vignarajah running, alphabetically, from Abe’s MDC LLC to Yakimoff, James. Mr. Scott’s fundraising is somewhat less impressive in comparison with a modest $230,389.40 on hand from a lot of $25 and $50 donors, according to the last report. Indeed, in most campaign finance reporting periods Mr. Scott’s campaign spending not only lagged Ms. Miller’s and Mr. Vignarajah’s, but his fundraising fell well behind that of incumbent Bernard C. “Jack” Young who ended up a distant fifth when it came time to actually tallying the votes.

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Leading that effort will likely fall to James L. Shea, Venable’s chairman emeritus and the onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate who picked Mr. Scott to be his running mate and has unofficially spearheaded fundraising for the Scott campaign. The news, Mr. Shea said Wednesday, is that many he has so far contacted seem “persuadable" and that the business community does not think with one mind. “They are ready to be converted,” he said. “They will recognize this is a talented young leader who is bringing people together.”

The point of this exercise is not to improve Mr. Scott’s fundraising or make him new friends. The point here is that Baltimore has some serious issues to tackle from its still-rampant violent crime to the fundamental social inequities that the coronavirus pandemic has helped lay bare. That will require an all-in approach, a unity that has been lacking in recent years. It’s not so much that Mr. Scott needs the business community or the business community needs the next mayor but that the city and its people need everyone working together. That effort must start today.

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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