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Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon launches first TV ad as she seeks return to office

Sheila Dixon, former mayor of Baltimore City who was forced to resign, is running again for the office in the Democratic primary. Feb. 13, 2020
Sheila Dixon, former mayor of Baltimore City who was forced to resign, is running again for the office in the Democratic primary. Feb. 13, 2020(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Stressing her record driving down crime in Baltimore, former Mayor Sheila Dixon on Monday released the first television ad of her campaign to return to office.

Dixon, a Democrat, doesn’t speak in the ad, but lets supporters praise her for “cleaning up” Baltimore’s streets, stopping police from making “illegal arrests” and reducing the number of homicides.

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“Take it from me, I’ve been in Baltimore my entire life, Sheila Dixon is the best mayor we’ve ever had,” one supporter states.

During Dixon’s years as mayor, from 2007 to 2010, she launched a popular single-stream recycling program. Homicides dropped from 282 to 238. And arrests declined from a high during the so-called “zero tolerance” policies of her predecessor, Democrat Martin O’Malley, as she hired a police commissioner who emphasized targeted arrests of violent shooters.

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At the same time, the police department under Dixon emphasized aggressive, plain-clothes units that continued to be a source of citizens’ complaints.

Since 2015, Baltimore has experienced more than 300 homicides annually.

Dixon’s $50,000 ad buy will run on social media, network and cable stations. She is the sixth candidate in the race to begin airing television ads.

Former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller ― who has poured $1.5 million of her own money into her campaign ― has spent more than $940,000 so far on advertising. She released another ad Monday focusing on rebuilding the city’s economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah has spent nearly $400,000. He, too, released his latest ad Monday, called “Do It Now,” focusing on getting quick solutions to residents’ problems.

Current Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has spent nearly $350,000. City Council President Brandon Scott has spent more than $80,000. And former Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith has spent more than $20,000.

Dixon’s ad features testimonials from black supporters in a city where older, African American voters have traditionally decided who wins elections.

A poll last month conducted for The Baltimore Sun, the University of Baltimore and WYPR showed Dixon was at that time leading the race overall and with black voters.

In recent interviews, Dixon has worried that the move to a mail-in election during the coronavirus pandemic will suppress turnout among African American voters.

Vignarajah and Miller were favored among the city’s white voters, last month’s poll showed.

Two dozen candidates are running in the crowded June 2 Democratic primary, though voters can begin casting ballots earlier by mail.

There are seven people running in the Republican primary, as well as one unaffiliated candidate in the November general election for mayor. For decades, the primary contest among the city’s Democrats, who outnumber Republican voters by nearly 10 to 1, has decided who will be mayor of Baltimore.

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Dixon has apologized for the scandal that led to her resigning as mayor in 2010 after she was found guilty of embezzling gift cards. As part of a plea agreement to a perjury charge, she was on probation for four years and could not seek office during that time.

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