Incumbent John Anderson pulled easily ahead Tuesday at the end of heated Democratic primary battle for Baltimore’s sheriff that pitted him against a high-ranking Baltimore police commander.
Anderson, 71, has been in office since 1989. After early returns, he held a comfortable lead over Chief Stanley Brandford, who asked voters to trust in his law enforcement experience to overhaul the office.
Anderson thanked his campaign staff for the work they had put in and said that by 11 p.m. the results looked "very favorable."
“If things say the same and we get another victory all of us are looking forward to serving the citizens of Baltimore City,” he said.
David Wiggins ran unopposed for the Republican nomination. In a city in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by 10-1, Anderson will be the heavy favorite to win re-election in November.
The Baltimore City sheriff’s office is responsible for guarding the city’s downtown courthouses and serving court papers. But the office’s 103 deputies also help police, and were deployed on the streets during the unrest of 2015. Members of the office pride themselves on having a better relationship with the community than police officers do.
Brandford’s core pitch to voters was that the sheriff had kept too low a profile and that the office could do more to help fight violent crime in the community at a time of near-record killings. Anderson scoffed at the argument, countering that he had been raising his profile in his last two terms, but had not sought attention from the press.
Brandford graduated from Southwestern High School and enlisted in the military instead of enrolling in college. He joined the Police Department in 1990 and rose over time to become chief of criminal investigations. He oversaw several notable operations, leading the department’s team that investigated the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Anderson’s office was also involved in the Gray case, helping State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby file charges against six officers — a role Anderson said he was obliged to play. Brandford criticized the sheriff, saying his office lacked the experience to take part in the investigation.
Brandford took a leave of absence from the Police Department to campaign. He put up an enormous billboard with his image to overlook downtown.
Anderson has joined the sheriff’s office in 1972, after a career in the Air Force. Anderson lives in Northeast Baltimore’s Northwood neighborhood and is a graduate of City College.
In recent years, Anderson said, he’s worked to raise the office’s profile among the public.
“It’s all about the people and all about the public trust,” he said. “A lot of communities out there need their government to do great things for them.”
Anderson took over serving some domestic violence paperwork and helped secure the passage of legislation in the General Assembly to fund the work, something he said was one of his proudest achievements.
In the middle of the race, photos emerged that appeared to show a member of Anderson’s office loading campaign signs into a marked sheriff’s office car — a potential violation of election rules. Anderson’s team called in the independent state prosecutor to investigate.