There are no splashy campaign signs outside the building or upper-level office suite where Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has set up her temporary national headquarters in Baltimore. The California senator’s name doesn’t appear in the lobby directory.
Presidential campaigns — often associated with brightly colored literature, banners and balloons — are not normally reticent about announcing their presence. Quite the opposite.
But a campaign staff member for Harris had created a local guessing game by recently tweeting: "We are definitely located in Baltimore City. Can’t disclose the location."
Speculation abounded. Downtown or inner city? Gentrified Fells Point or struggling Penn North? National press secretary Ian Sams had responded to a question a week ago by saying: “We don't yet have an HQ.”
On Tuesday, the political puzzle was solved when The Baltimore Sun found the candidate’s digs in a brick building in Stadium Square, an up-and-coming, three-block development between Federal Hill and the city’s professional sports stadiums. The space is being used by the campaign while it readies more permanent space downtown.
The campaign said Wednesday that the permanent space will be on South Charles Street. No exact address was available.
In the meantime, the Stadium Square site, which also houses wealth management advisers and account executives, offers shared work areas, month-to-month leases and views of M&T Bank Stadium and surrounding neighborhoods.
When a reporter and photographer arrived, Lily Adams — the candidate’s communications director — was conducting a meeting in a small, glass-enclosed room crammed with seven campaign workers. A group of other workers were meeting nearby.
Harris — whose slogan is “For the People” — had not meant to turn her Baltimore location into such a mystery, Adams said.
“We were trying to find a temp space to work out of,” she said. “Obviously we’ll get a permanent space. Most campaigns do that where you start in a smaller space — with a smaller number of people — and then grow. I would guess we’d probably move in the next month or so.”
The campaign moved into its temporary digs in January and has 20 to 30 people working there. It’s uncertain how many Harris workers will ultimately be located in the city.
The campaign said the permanent site will be located in an “opportunity zone.” That federal program — part of a 2017 tax reform law -- is designed to attract billions of dollars of private investment and government resources to distressed communities around the nation.
Harris, who grew up in Oakland and is the former California attorney general, is vying for the Democratic nomination in a crowded field. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the best known of the bunch, leads in early polls.
Harris picked Baltimore for her headquarters, aides said, because of its diversity, its proximity to Washington and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and because it is in the Eastern time zone. The city has been struggling with high homicide rates and a mounting scandal related to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
“Baltimore has got obviously a great community. It’s an emerging city in the country,” said Adams, a granddaughter of the late former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. “It’s diverse. It’s got a lot of what the campaign is all about. That was really the thinking behind it.”
Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, has made occasional appearances in Maryland politics, most recently endorsing Ben Jealous last summer during his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. She also appeared in 2017 at the NAACP convention in Baltimore, where she called for national reform of cash bail and other criminal justice issues.
Harris announced her candidacy in January. As the months passed, Baltimoreans began openly wondering on Twitter whether she had changed her mind about locating in the city— perhaps because of the scandal involving the mayor.
But the campaign said its plans had not changed.
“We're excited to be a part of the city,” Sams said.