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State Sen. Mary Washington.
State Sen. Mary Washington. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Maryland Sen. Mary Washington is entering the race for Baltimore mayor, arguing the city needs a competent leader with a progressive vision to turn the city around.

Washington, who says current city leadership has been complacent in addressing Baltimore’s problems, is pledging to roll out a series of plans she said could transform the city.

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“Baltimore’s not a poor city; we’ve just been poorly run,” said Washington, 57, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “Our city is broken. There’s a real lack of appreciation that Baltimore needs to get back to the basics: integrity, accountability, spending money properly."

Known as among the most progressive legislators in the Maryland State Senate, Washington, an Ednor Gardens resident and former Baltimore Housing CitiStat director, said she will propose “big ideas" to move Baltimore forward. But she also said Baltimore leaders need to get the small things right, such as ensuring the city delivers accurate water bills.

And just because she’s known as a progressive doesn’t mean she’s in favor of higher taxes, Washington said.

“I think we should cut property taxes," she said. “I think we should invest in businesses, in small businesses, in minority-owned businesses, in black-owned businesses.”

Washington enters a Democratic field that includes Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith and businessman Rikki Vaughn, who has begun buying billboards across the city.

Washington is the only woman who holds elected office who has filed to run. She plans to formally kick off her campaign Wednesday with three stops across the city.

Young moved up from City Council president to replace Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh this spring when she resigned amid scandal in May.

Other Democrats still considering whether to run include former Mayor Sheila Dixon and T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller, who told The Sun this week she is contemplating a run. Miller is a former acting deputy secretary of the treasury in the administration of President Barack Obama.

This past legislative session, her first as a senator, Washington was the lead sponsor of legislation that banned Baltimore from placing liens against homes, churches and other properties over unpaid water bills. She argued no one should lose their house because of an erroneous water billing system.

As a delegate, Washington also was the lead sponsor of a bill that made it illegal to shackle incarcerated women while they are in labor, delivery and recovering from giving birth.

“I was listening to people who were in trouble,” Washington said of the legislation.

Washington also was among two senators who fought unsuccessfully against the authorization of a police force for Johns Hopkins University, a private institution. That measure ultimately passed.

Washington said she’s been displeased with recent statements from Young and Scott that she says show a lack of leadership. For example, she cited Young’s recent statement, when asked about the homicide rate in Baltimore, that “I’m not committing the murders.”

“The very definition of leadership is responsibility,” Washington said Tuesday. “If you have a leader who is not willing to be responsible, it’s time to change the leader.”

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Washington also said she doesn’t support Scott’s idea of appointing a city manager to run Baltimore.

“If you’re not the mayor who wants to manage the city, then you shouldn’t be mayor,” she said. “That is the job. Baltimore doesn’t need someone who just wants to cut ribbons and pass resolutions.”

Originally from West Philadelphia, Washington is the oldest of six children. She moved to Baltimore in 1992 to attend Johns Hopkins University, where she earned her master’s and her doctorate in sociology.

“I was planning on being a professor, but I always liked to be close to the ground,” she said.

She served in the House of Delegates from 2010 to 2018 representing North Baltimore. In 2018, she unseated incumbent Sen. Joan Carter Conway in a spirited campaign.

Washington had about $34,000 in her bank account as of January, but she said she will begin fundraising aggressively.

The filing deadline is Jan. 24 for the April 28 primary.

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