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Elections

Sinclair chairman gives an additional $140,000 to Question K term limit effort in Baltimore, increasing total spending to $525,000

Sinclair Broadcast Group chairman David Smith has given an additional $140,000 to the effort to create term limits for Baltimore elected officials, bringing his total investment in the ballot question to $525,000, campaign finance reports show.

Smith made the contribution Sept. 29, days after supporters — including the Rev. Alvin Hathaway, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham and former independent mayoral candidate Robert Wallace — gathered in front of City Hall to kick off a campaign promoting term limits.

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Although supporters said at the time they were seeking money from a number of potential donors, Smith was the only contributor since August to the People for Elected Accountability and Civic Engagement, the political committee backing the initiative.

Sinclair CEO David Smith

Sinclair’s WBFF-TV in Baltimore, which it calls Fox 45, is often critical of the city’s top elected officials,

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Question K on the ballot asks voters to amend the city’s charter to limit the mayor, council members, council president and comptroller to two terms of four years each. The cap would begin in 2024, and the count of terms would start that year — even for longtime officeholders. Officials could serve in different offices over the course of their careers, as long as they abide by a two-term limit for each office.

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The question was one of two promoted by the People for Elected Accountability and Civic Engagement. The committee failed to get 10,000 signatures needed for a referendum established recall elections in Baltimore, a topic Fox 45 has reported on repeatedly.

The committee spent all of Smith’s initial $385,000 investment on consulting firm Rowland Strategies and law firm DLA Piper.

The group’s latest report, which covers Aug. 24 to Oct. 9, shows $74,166 in spending, split between DLA Piper and communications firm Nevins & Associates. The committee has $64,188 on hand. Its next filing is due Oct. 28.

Veteran political adviser Larry Gibson speaks at a news conference urging a "No" vote on the term limit Question K ballot initiative in the upcoming election.

Opponents of Question K have emerged in recent weeks, headed by attorney and University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Law professor Larry Gibson. At a rally in front of City Hall earlier this month that included representatives from the Baltimore NAACP and local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Gibson said he personally paid for signs that have appeared across the city that read: “Stop FoxTV attack on Baltimore. Vote against Question K.”

Public records show a political committee called Vote No Question K was created Saturday by Mark Anthony Montgomery, a pastor with Union Baptist Church who spoke at the anti-Question K rally. Because the committee was established after the Friday finance report deadline, it has not submitted a report. Montgomery said he is acting with the committee in his own capacity, not as a representative of the city church.

Question K opponents argue term limits would destabilize the city’s government and hamper the ability of elected officials to enact meaningful policy.

The question is one of 11 local referendums that appear on the ballots of city voters this fall. Voters also are being asked whether they want to return to local control of city police, reorganize a board that oversees the city inspector general and create a fund to supplement rewards for crime tips.

On of the anti-Question K signs personally paid for by Larry Gibson, a veteran political adviser and law professor, in Baltimore.

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