Moore pledges cooperation; Cox to take Baltimore by court order. What path does city take under Maryland’s next governor?

It was the latest debacle in a city that’s grown all too accustomed to them, and both of the leading gubernatorial candidates descended upon Baltimore.

At Wylie Funeral Home in Harlem Park, Democrat Wes Moore donned an orange apron as he slung packs of water bottles into the cars of waiting city residents. Each was among the thousands of people without drinkable water for the fourth consecutive day due to E. coli contamination.


Dan Cox, the Republican nominee, greeted people several neighborhoods away, stooping to meet the eyes of a young girl as she stood with her great-grandmother at a water pickup site at Deliverance Temple Sanctuary Ministries.

The twin campaign stops were a rare similarity for the two candidates, whose platforms and approaches to the city diverge widely. Moore, a resident of the city’s tony Guilford neighborhood, has spoken publicly about trying to harness his relationships to channel more funding to Baltimore and improve cooperation between the city and Annapolis.


Cox, who lives in Frederick County, has readied himself for a clash, criticizing Mayor Brandon Scott for not being more visible in the city and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby for not enforcing its laws. He pledged on social media this summer to take the city by receivership.

In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1, it’s no surprise many city leaders, elected and community-based, support Moore. Several who spoke to The Baltimore Sun viewed a potential Moore administration as a welcome departure from the Larry Hogan era, in which they feel the city is disrespected by the Republican governor — even when he is offering aid.

“There’s been some assistance,” Democratic Councilman John Bullock said of Hogan, whose second and final four-year term ends Jan. 18. That help, however, “comes with a bit of a jab,” he said.

“To have the assistance without the jab, I think will be important,” he said. “We can always improve in certain areas, but when we’re down, we don’t need anyone else to kick us either.”

Baltimoreans who spoke to The Sun were cautiously optimistic in their expectations of the state’s next governor and the potential for cooperation to address the numerous issues afflicting the city. Baltimore’s transportation system remains inadequate. Students at some city schools began this school year with early dismissals because their aging buildings still lack air conditioning.

And, just as it has for the last seven years, Baltimore is on pace to exceed 300 homicides in 2022.

Crime always a concern

Arnold Foster Jr., president of the Ashburton Area Association, said for him, crime stands above all of Baltimore’s pressing issues the next governor has the potential to significantly impact.

“If the next governor is able to support our local leaders — that’s in government and communities — and find effective ways to address the issue of crime in our city, and for that matter in our state, I think that particular issue will be crucial in turning Baltimore around,” Foster said.


Differing approaches to crime have been a flashpoint for Hogan and Baltimore leaders. Since taking office in December 2020, Scott, a Democrat, and Hogan have repeatedly traded barbs — Hogan targeting Scott for his goal of reducing spending on police and Scott needling Hogan for refusing to offer “meaningful” assistance and eliminating funding for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of city, state and federal officials that discusses public safety strategies.

A meeting between the two leaders in February brokered a temporary truce. But by May, Hogan delivered a letter to Scott decrying an “utter lack of progress” toward implementing the city’s crime plan. Scott fired back, accusing Hogan of playing “publicity games.”

Despite such disputes, Scott said Tuesday he felt he had a better working relationship with Hogan than some of his predecessors as mayor. But he sees in Moore the “potential to forge really committed partnerships” on public safety, particularly rehabilitating ex-offenders and preventing recidivism.

“It’s politically convenient to point all things public safety and Baltimore at the feet of the mayor and a police commissioner, whereas most public safety agencies actually report to the [state] government,” he said.

Moore, a former nonprofit CEO and author, has campaigned on a platform of addressing crime through better cooperation between the city and state. Improving the working relationship between city police and the state parole and probation system is a frequent talking point. Moore has also promised to leverage his relationships on the federal level — Baltimore’s representation in Congress is all-Democratic — to bring more resources into the city to address crime, specifically the availability of guns.

“When you look at Baltimore and the history of Baltimore, some of Baltimore’s best eras and best times, the thing to look at is not necessarily just who is the mayor. It’s important to look at who was the governor,” Moore said. “That partnership with Annapolis is imperative.”


Cox, an attorney and state delegate since 2019, posted a crime plan on the website Truth Social in June that said he would “take back the Inner Harbor on Day One.” The plan also called for allowing “modified stop and frisk” policies and enacting so-called broken windows policing, controversial crime-fighting methodologies popularized in the 1990s and 2000s that were abandoned in Baltimore and elsewhere amid criticisms they were racially biased and enforced with unconstitutional practices.

On July 8, after a driver wielding a baseball bat was shot by a squeegee worker following a confrontation downtown, Cox posted on the conservative web platform Gettr he would “target an end of squeegee crimes and all crime no matter how small,” and pledged to remove Mosby from office because of her failure to “obey and enforce the laws.” Mosby, a Democrat, lost her primary in July and will step down at the end of her term in January.

The Sun made multiple attempts to speak to Cox for this article. His staff scheduled an interview for which he failed to appear. No explanation was offered.

State Sen. Antonio Hayes, a Democratic representative of West Baltimore and an ardent supporter of Moore, argued the last time the state had a Democratic governor and mayor from Baltimore in power together (referring to the era of Martin O’Malley as governor from 2007 to 2015), the city experienced its largest reduction in violent crime in the last two decades. Overall crime decreased nationwide during that time, studies show.

Hayes said he would like to see the next governor push for more cooperation between city police and the state Division of Parole and Probation, a partnership he said was effective under O’Malley as governor. Hayes also said he would like to see Maryland State Police patrolling Interstate 83 to free city police to work in the city itself.

“I think some of it is just a reprioritization of resources,” he said.


Outside investment vs. receivership?

Moore has positioned himself as a candidate who can serve as a conduit for outside investment in Baltimore from the federal level, but also from the nonprofit community, where he worked for the past decade. He’s pledged to renew a push to build an east-west transit link in Baltimore. That’s the Red Line project Hogan canceled in 2015, turning back $900 million to the federal government and shifting $736 million to other areas of the state.

On conservative web platforms, Cox has repeatedly posted about the idea of taking Baltimore via receivership. More often used in cases of vacant properties or bankruptcies, receiverships typically involve a court ordering a third party to take control of an asset, acting as a “receiver.” His social media posts do not address how long he envisions the city being run by a receiver, nor the authority by which he would exact such control.

Zulieka Baysmore, a city Republican and candidate for the state House of Delegates who ran for mayor in 2020, said she supported the idea. City voters haven’t elected a leader who “understands what the city needs,” she said. Current leadership has not allowed Police Commissioner Michael Harrison the freedom to do his job, she said, instead favoring a “holistic approach” to crime.

“If you can’t do that, then it does belong in receivership,” she said of the city. “And we should elect the right people on the state level.”

Many other Baltimore leaders, however, were quick to dismiss the concept.

Scott called the plan “utterly ridiculous” and said Cox is a “disciple of one Donald Trump.”

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“For someone who held state office to say they’re going to put the city under receivership shows that person isn’t really based in reality, but based in racist, fearmongering, delusional thoughts,” Scott said.

“I don’t even know what that means,” state Sen. Jill P. Carter said of Cox’s proposal. “It’s ridiculous and it would never happen.”

Carter, a Democrat representing West and Northwest Baltimore, said she hasn’t entertained the idea of Cox sitting in the governor’s seat. “It’s not really something I think about at all,” she quipped.

She said Moore, however, represents hope for residents across the state and particularly in Baltimore as a Black man and a city resident. Moore would be Maryland’s first Black governor.

“A lot of Baltimore’s people don’t feel they have any hope,” she said. “People do better when they feel they are valuable, when they feel that they matter. I think that Wes Moore both symbolically and substantively will make that happen, make people feel more valued.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Hannah Gaskill and Sam Janesch contributed to this article.


This is the third in a series of articles about issues of importance to Maryland voters and facing the next governor.