City Council President Brandon Scott announces his bid to run for Mayor of Baltimore City.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott had barely finished announcing his run for mayor Friday when his potential rivals took aim.
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon branded him an “opportunist.” Former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah blamed him for helping to install a police commissioner who ended up in jail. And Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young smiled and responded dismissively.
Finally, it seemed, the consequential race for Baltimore mayor had begun.
Scott, 35, announced his run for the city’s top office in front of his parents’ house in Park Heights, where he grew up.
Scott, a Democrat, is the first elected official to enter the 2020 race. His move puts pressure on Young to decide whether he wants to seek a full term of his own after taking over from Democrat Catherine Pugh. She resigned amid scandal in May and is the subject of investigations into her business dealings.
Flanked by supporters, Scott declared city government “broken” and said he didn’t see why he should wait to try his hand at fixing it.
“I’ve heard the naysayers say that it’s not my time and I should just wait,” Scott said. “The truth is: I can’t wait. I can’t wait because Baltimore can’t wait. Baltimore needs a leader who is willing to risk it all for the city.”
In particular, he focused on crime and the 300 homicides the city has suffered each year for four consecutive years. Scott said he was tired of attending and speaking at funerals.
“Anybody in the city can run for any position they want," said the Democratic mayor, adding that he hadn’t made a call himself about running.
Asked if he thought Scott would make a good mayor, Young said, “You should ask him.”
Dixon, another Democrat who is considering a run for mayor herself, was more direct in her criticism. She noted Scott has run for lieutenant governor and City Council president in the past two years.
“Why did you want the City Council president seat if you were going to run for mayor?” Dixon said. “Is this taking advantage of an opportunity? This is not a game. We need people who want to get in there for the right reasons. We don’t need people who just want the title of mayor.”
Even so, Dixon, 65, called Scott a “nice young man.”
“What’s your record?” she asked, rhetorically. “Brandon wanted to be lieutenant governor. Brandon wanted to be City Council president. Is this an opportunist?”
Dixon said she would be making a decision “shortly” about whether to run.
“Despite all that’s happening, I know I could get in there and get things straight with crime, the ransom, water bills,” Dixon said. “People need results.”
The city suffered a crippling ransomware attack in May, just after Young took over as mayor. It affected a number of city services, including holding up water bills for so long that customers recently received large bills for several months of usage.
Vignarajah said he welcomed Scott to a “vigorous debate.”
“Candidly, I’m not sure how Brandon, who is chair of public safety and did nothing to stop skyrocketing murders except push through a felon as commissioner, thinks he’s ready to be mayor,” Vignarajah said. “Maybe down the road, but not now when we’re in a crisis.”
Scott was an ally of former Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, who was sentenced earlier this year to 10 months in federal prison for tax fraud.
A dozen candidates have formally filed to run for mayor, including Republicans Catalina Byrd and Shannon Wright. Democrats who have said they are running include Vignarajah, Baltimore activist Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, and the unofficial “mayor of Hampden” Lou Catelli, who is also called Will Bauer.
In addition to Young and Dixon, prominent Democrats considering a run include former Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith, state Del. Nick J. Mosby, and state Sen. Mary Washington.
In response to the comments from Dixon, Young and Vignarajah, Scott campaign manager Marvin James said the council president would steer clear of personal attacks.
“The council president has a commitment to the people of Baltimore and is focused on delivering results. He has no time for name-calling,” James said.
At his campaign announcement, Scott was endorsed by Erricka Bridgeford, one of the organizers of the anti-violence group Baltimore Ceasefire. Bridgeford said what she admires most about Scott is his integrity.
“I have seen Brandon stand strong on the side of what’s right,” she said. "He puts his integrity first. ... I am putting my mouth, my resources, my reputation behind Brandon Scott for mayor. "
The Democratic and Republican primary elections are April 28. The filing deadline is Jan. 24.