T.J. Smith, the former Baltimore Police and Baltimore County spokesman who has previously expressed interest in a possible run for mayor, filed paperwork this week with the Maryland State Board of Elections to form a campaign committee for 2020 — moving him one step closer to candidacy.
Smith, 42, has not officially announced a campaign and left blank a box on the committee paperwork for “office sought.”
But he acknowledged again Thursday that the mayoral race was his focus, if indeed he follows through.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been contemplating this and prepping for a long time, and as part of the process, you have to file paperwork. By the end of this month I’ll make a decision. The only thing I want is the best for our city.”
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“It’s no secret that I’ve been contemplating this and prepping for a long time, and as part of the process, you have to file paperwork,” he said. “By the end of this month I’ll make a decision. The only thing I want is the best for our city.”
He moved from the county to the city this past winter. Candidates must live in Baltimore to run for mayor. And he has said he has met with advisers about running.
His establishing the Friends of T.J. Smith committee on Wednesday authorized the committee to raise and spend campaign funds on behalf of his candidacy for elected office. The paperwork names Smith the chairperson of the committee, and Carlton Epps Sr. as treasurer.
Smith said he has traveled around Baltimore, where he is from and where he served as the police spokesman for several tumultuous years, and heard from people who, “are looking for a different option” in their political leadership.
“Within the next several weeks, we’ll see if I’m the person who will give them that option," he said. “This has been a methodical process, and that’s what it takes for such a serious decision. Everyone knows my heart, and where my heart is.”
He said he had wanted to wait until he left his job with the county — his last day was Oct. 4 — before filing any candidacy paperwork.
What chance Smith would have at winning the race is unclear. Many expect Mayor Bernard C. “Jack" Young to enter, though he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy, and City Council President Brandon Scott has already announced he is running. All are Democrats. The winner of the Democratic primary is traditionally considered a shoe-in for the job, given the political demographics of city voters.
Smith does enjoy widespread name recognition in the city for all his work as a police spokesman. He was the face of the department in the years following the 2015 unrest, and enjoyed substantial support from the community even as the department itself suffered from distrust. He also has critics who say he was an apologist for police at times when they were in the wrong.