Baltimore entrepreneur Bob Wallace is running as an independent for Baltimore mayor, joining a crowded field that he says lacks a candidate with his ability to create jobs.
“I didn’t feel they would bring to the table what I felt the city needs right now,” Wallace said in an interview. “The root issue in our city is economic development. I know what it takes to build an economy.”
Wallace, 63, announced his candidacy Wednesday during a midmorning video news conference. As an independent, he won’t be on the June 2 primary ballot.
“In every election cycle we tend to elect career politicians,” he told reporters. "We’ve done what we always do and we get what we always got.”
He said he would be a “mayor-preneur," using his business skills to run the city.
A longtime registered Republican, Wallace said in an interview Tuesday that he is now unaffiliated. He said he is running as an independent because “we’ve had 50 years of Democratic leadership. People are looking for a new way and a new day.”
While he has backed Republican as well as Democratic candidates in the past, he said GOP President Donald Trump “does not reflect my values.”
In fact, Wallace said he was outraged when Trump launched a series of tweets and comments last summer attacking the late Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, his hometown of Baltimore and the 7th Congressional District, which Trump called “rat and rodent infested.”
“My initial reaction was anger: ‘How dare you speak about our city that way?’” Wallace said. “It shook me.”
Wallace said he grew up in poverty in Cherry Hill, an experience that he said helps him understand the challenges many Baltimoreans face.
The campaign said his primary residence is a Baltimore City apartment above his business offices in Mount Vernon, and that he has a home in Howard County. He has been married for 42 years and has five adult children.
Wallace said the Trump exchange helped motivate him to run for mayor, a move he had been weighing for months.
He needs about 4,000 signatures — 1% of eligible voters, according to city Election Director Armstead Jones.
Wallace will have the task of raising his profile during a pandemic limiting the ability of candidates to meet voters.
Wallace anticipates having a campaign budget “in excess of a million dollars,” said David Nevins, head of Nevins & Associates, which is handling the campaign’s marketing and communications.
Wallace already has raised “six figures of donations, and Bob has already loaned his campaign a six-figure amount,” Nevins said. A May 1 campaign finance filing with the state elections board showed Wallace’s campaign had about $100,000 on hand (the state fined the campaign $60 for filing the report, due April 28, late).
The campaign said it initially filed the report six days ahead of the deadline but was notified on May 1 that the document was incomplete because it was missing one of the required signatures.
Two dozen candidates are running in the Democratic primary, and there are seven people running on the Republican side. There is one other unaffiliated candidate running in the November general election.
Wallace was among a number of mayoral candidates and potential contenders Republican Gov. Larry Hogan invited in March to meet with him discuss violence prevention.
In the Democratic primary, former Mayor Sheila Dixon and former T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller were tied with 18% support among the likely voters surveyed in a new poll for The Baltimore Sun, the University of Baltimore and WYPR-FM. They were in a three-way tie in the poll with City Council President Brandon Scott who, at 15%, was within the poll’s margin of error.
For decades, the primary contest among the city’s Democrats, who outnumber Republican voters in the city by nearly 10-1, has decided who leads Baltimore.
“Prior to 1969 we had never put a man on the moon. Don’t tell me what hasn’t been done,” Wallace said. “I’d be a pioneer.”
Wallace, who graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1974, founded three Baltimore companies. BITHGROUP Technologies Inc. is an IT service provider; Bithenergy Inc. is an energy services company; and EntreTeach Learning Systems LLC provides web-based training for women and minority business owners.
Creating tens of thousands of new jobs for Baltimore, Wallace said, would “impact all of the social issues that we face — the concentration of poverty, the social dysfunction. If you peel back the onion, most of it ties back to economics.”