Roya Hanna drops out of Baltimore state’s attorney race, paving clear path for Democratic nominee Ivan Bates in general election

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Roya Hanna, left, and Ivan Bates, right, pose for a photo after holding  a joint news conference this morning.  Ms. Hanna made an announcement ending her independent candidacy for Baltimore State’s Attorney and her support for Bates, who will be unopposed in the election.

Defense attorney and former prosecutor Roya Hanna is ending her independent candidacy for Baltimore state’s attorney, all but ensuring Democratic nominee Ivan Bates will become the city’s next top prosecutor.

Hanna had dropped out of the Democratic primary race in March but planned to run as an independent in November’s general election. There are no Republicans running for state’s attorney.


“It’s really important that the city got new leadership in the office and we now have new leadership in the office,” Hanna told The Baltimore Sun ahead of the announcement. “It’s important that we have clarity about what’s going to happen going forward and that we work on the criminal justice system and improving public safety in Baltimore City.”

She announced the end of her campaign alongside Bates at a news conference Friday at her law office, saying her ultimate goal was to ensure whoever was elected top prosecutor would “put public safety above politics and make sure the criminal justice system works for everybody, including, and especially, the victims of crime and victims’ families.”


“Baltimore has seen 200 murders the past half year; there’s no time to waste in the work that must be done to rebuild the state’s attorney’s office,” Hanna continued. “The risk is that hundreds of more lives may be lost while we await the political process and that the next state’s attorney will not be able to have the people and policies in place and ready to be implemented Day One.”

Hanna said she’s confident that Bates can make good on his pledge to bring down violence. She believes the state’s attorney has the ability to reduce homicides.

Bates told The Sun on Thursday he’s grateful for Hanna’s support, and that her decision allows him to begin preparing his administration.

“This clears the way for us to focus on doing the job of state’s attorney,” Bates said in a phone interview. “It allows us to focus on the transition so that Day One we can hit the ground running so that we can work collaboratively with all our partners in the criminal justice system to keep the citizens of Baltimore City safe.”

Hanna’s dropping out of the Democratic primary was both symbolic and strategic. She said she believes politics should be removed from public safety, but she expected a four-candidate primary to favor embattled Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

She bet on the incumbent prevailing against challengers who split the non-Mosby vote in 2018 and hoped to rally the support of those who disapproved of Mosby in the November general election. The city has elected a Democrat to the office in every election since 1920.

Hanna’s latest campaign finance report, which covered up to July 3, showed she had $19,000 on hand. That’s a fraction of the six-figure sums the Democratic candidates had available by the same date.

But Mosby finished third in the primary, with Bates coasting to a victory. He garnered 41% of the vote. Former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah came in second place by about 9,000 votes.


Now, Hanna is throwing her support behind Bates, a longtime defense attorney who worked as a prosecutor in Baltimore for several years. Bates focused his campaign on combatting crime and deterring gun violence.

“I really believe we need a state’s attorney’s office that focuses on crime. I really believe the office can help reduce the number of homicides,” Hanna said in an interview. “Anything that gets the office there is something I would want to happen.”

Bates said he looks forward to sitting down with Hanna to go over her ideas for revitalizing the state’s attorney’s office, which has a shortage of prosecutors. Before assuming office, he plans to scout potential members of his administration, while meeting with law enforcement partners to establish strong bonds and studying best practices from across the country, including a court diversion program in Miami.

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“This isn’t an overnight job. It’s not going to be a quick fix,” Bates said in an interview. “But we have to begin to work collaboratively — we don’t have any time to wait. The sooner we get to work, the sooner we can build those relationships, the sooner we can talk about our plans, the sooner we can begin to draft the plans.”

Hanna proposed several unique ideas on the campaign trail, like building a Women’s Empowerment Court, to support women in the criminal justice system who experienced domestic violence. The one initiative she publicly urged Bates to take up was bolstering the state’s attorney’s office Central Booking Unit, which handles charging decisions.

The unit needs to better evaluate cases from the outset to ensure they are winnable and that people aren’t wrongfully accused, Hanna said Friday. “Oftentimes we see that people get charged and the state’s attorney’s office has taken the position of ‘we’ll figure it out later.’ Well that really means people have to sit in jail for six months, nine months, a year, 18 months and their families lose out on their support and the people have a lot of negative consequences.”


Bates said he agreed with Hanna’s idea. In an interview, he took the opportunity to thank Mosby, saying she told him she’s going to work hard to ensure a seamless transition of power “to allow me to already have that information going into Day One, where we can have a real plan and we can be able to implement our plan Day One instead of trying to figure out what our plans are.”

On the campaign trail and after winning the primary, Bates has distinguished himself from Mosby by promising to roll back some of her policies, like not prosecuting low-level offenses. He unveiled a prosecution plan that focused on being tough on gun crimes while rejuvenating the court’s diversionary programs that he says have been underutilized with Mosby’s prosecution policies.

Whether Hanna, who was an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore for 12 years, will be part of the team Bates puts together to bring his vision to fruition is unclear. His campaign spokesman said he would not comment about potential personnel decisions.

“Everyone’s been asking the question of whether I’m joining the office, I just don’t know … I just don’t know if that’s the best way I can help people,” Hanna said.