Odette Ramos declared victory in the Democratic primary race for Baltimore City Council District 14, setting her up to become the city’s first Latina elected official.
Ramos claimed the win Tuesday afternoon after Joseph Kane II, who was in second place with 15% of the vote, conceded to her Tuesday morning.
“I’m ready to get to work. This summer, we will continue our District 14 tele-townhall series, informational emails, social media, contact in the district, and resolve constituent issues,” Ramos said Tuesday in a statement.
“We have a general election in November, and if successful, I will be sworn in on December 10th. Until then, I look forward to working with Councilwoman [Mary Pat] Clarke on a successful transition and getting to work Day One.”
Ramos’ primary campaign was strengthened by years of experience in local advocacy, more fundraising than her competitors combined and a key endorsement from Clarke, the outgoing councilwoman.
As of Monday, the returns showed Ramos, 47, won 65% of the vote, which would position her to face Republican Charles Long, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the November election.
Democrats outnumber GOP voters by nearly 10 to 1 in Baltimore.
City Council members receive a salary of about $73,000 annually.
Ramos’ family is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and she grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the daughter of a U.S. airman.
She moved to Maryland in 1991 to attend Goucher College, where she graduated in 1995 with a degree in social justice. She later received her master’s degree in public policy from Rutgers University.
The summer after graduating from Goucher, Ramos volunteered for Clarke’s mayoral campaign. She was introduced to others in the political realm, including Del. Maggie McIntosh, for whom she would also volunteer.
Ramos also worked for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and volunteered in multiple campaigns for Shannon Sneed, who conceded the race for City Council President to Nick Mosby this week.
In her 30 years in Baltimore, Ramos has focused on community development, from fair housing to small business growth.
Ramos led the effort in 2018 to create the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which serves to develop and maintain housing affordable for low-income residents. She previously worked for Strong City Baltimore and founded the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, both nonprofits that seek to improve conditions in Baltimore communities.
In 2005, Ramos founded Strategic Management Consulting, a firm that advises organizations, small business and nonprofits to help them operate more efficiently. She is currently director of The Community Development Network of Maryland, but said she has been on leave since January as she focused on her campaign. She also served as chair of the Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce from 2007 to 2009.
Ramos unsuccessfully sought a bid for the City Council’s 12th District in 2011.
Ramos’ campaign focused on issues regarding vacant housing and the errant water billing system, the latter she said came up countless times while knocking on “close to 19,000 doors.”
Angelo Solera, who lost a 2003 bid for the City Council’s 1st District, said he took an active role in supporting Ramos because of the historic importance of having the first Latina in city government. Ramos said Solera, a leader in the Latino community, “paved the way” for her and others.
While Solera said councilman Zeke Cohen, who represents District 1, has done a lot to advocate for Latino residents, Ramos can inspire younger generations of Latinos to take an active role in politics.
“Her presence will create change,” Solera said. “It’s a big deal.”
Ramos said it’s “surprising” to be the first Latina elected in Baltimore, but “I’m very excited to work with the rest of the council on these issues that affect the Hispanic, Latino community.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Ramos said there aren’t many Hispanics or Latinos in the North Baltimore district of 46,000 residents, but they make up about 5.5% of the city’s population, according to 2019 census data. According to demographic data from the city, there were about 1,000 Hispanic residents in District 14 in 2011.
Ramos said she is excited about the future of the growing population — people of Hispanic or Latino origin made up about 4% of the city’s population in 2010 — and addressing issues of disparity in their communities, such as the coronavirus, which has disproportionately affected the state’s black and Latino population.
“The Latino community didn’t seem to have a voice before, so this is important for them as well,” Ramos said.
Lucia Islas, a well-known community leader and president of Comite Latino, a Baltimore-based volunteer network, said it’s important for Ramos to win not only because her hard work and leadership has gotten her to this point, but also because of what she represents for Latina women.
“When she wins I’m going to cry, because it gives me a sense of relief. It gives me hope that one day my girls can make it too,” Islas said.