Fresh off a successful fundraising spree, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young ended months of speculation Tuesday, saying he has decided to seek election to Baltimore’s top job.
The longtime East Baltimore Democrat previously swore off a run for mayor, but had a change of heart after settling into the job of running the city. He moved up from City Council president to replace Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh this spring, first as ex officio mayor when Pugh went on leave and then on a permanent basis when she resigned amid scandal in May.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Young, 65, laid out a vision for a full, four-year term in office, including building a new courthouse; implementing a new training program for city employees to advance in their careers; bolstering an office to help build strong families, and attempting to address equity among the races across the city.
Young said he has led the city through a number of challenges since he took over for Pugh on April 1, referring to, among other problems, a ransomware attack in May that disrupted the city’s computer systems. And, he said, he has confidence in Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s crime plan. Even though homicides and shootings are up this year, crime is going down in targeted zones that are the focus of extra police resources, Young said.
“I’ve had a strong team that is very wise and capable," he said. "I decided I want to run because there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish.”
Young said he was encouraged last week by an infusion of campaign cash from business leaders, restaurateurs and developers. He raised more than $250,000 at two events, according to his campaign.
“I want to run because there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish.”— Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young
“The business community can see we are on the cusp of a renaissance in Baltimore," Young said. “I believe I’m the person to do it. I’ve proven I can run the city of Baltimore. I have the experience as a city councilman, council president and as mayor.”
Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, said Young’s recent fundraisers — an Oct. 14 event at Martin’s West that brought in $17,000 and an Oct. 17 event at The Bygone restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel in Harbor East where he raised about $235,000 — likely sealed his decision to run.
“It is unlikely he would run unless he knew he would get financial support," Kromer said. "Obviously, money will matter a great deal, just like it does in every election.”
Only one other current officeholder is in the race so far: Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott. But more than a dozen other candidates have said they are running. The Democrats include former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, Baltimore activist Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, and the unofficial “mayor of Hampden” Lou Catelli, who is also named Will Bauer.
Other Democrats still considering whether to run are former Mayor Sheila Dixon, former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith and state Sen. Mary Washington. Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-1 among registered voters in the city.
The filing deadline is Jan. 24 for the April 28 primary.
Scott said he welcomes Young into the race.
“I remain focused on showing Baltimore a better way forward, where we cure gun violence, reform city government, invest in our youth, and create equitable outcomes for all Baltimoreans,” Scott said in a statement.
Kromer said the competition between Young and Scott, two citywide officeholders, will make it difficult for other candidates to edge their way into the race.
“It takes a lot of air out of the room,” Kromer said. “You will be able to see the push and pull between the two.”
Young said he didn’t anticipate that he and Scott running against each other would cause problems for city agencies or affect city services.
Of his opponents, he said, “All of them are talented individuals. We all bring something to the table. I think I bring something more.”
Vignarajah said the city needs fresh thinking and a fresh start. He painted the incumbent officeholders in the race with a broad brush, slamming City Hall’s culture as lacking transparency and accountability.
“This election is about crime and corruption," Vignarajah said, "and the same business-as-usual politicians who got us into this mess ... They don’t have the ability or ideas to get us out.”
Dixon said her decision about whether to run to reclaim her old job “is going to be coming real soon.” Young’s official entry into the race won’t make a difference in what she decides: “At one point, Jack didn’t want to be mayor. Now he wants to be mayor. My concern is what the city needs.”
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Smith has formed a campaign committee, although he has not specified which office he might seek next year. However, he said an announcement about his plans was imminent. He said voters will be given a fundamental choice in next year’s election: “Do we want more of the same, or are we ready for something different? That’s what this election will come down to.”
Young is planning a formal campaign kickoff Saturday that will include appearances by Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman Jr. and City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who was Young’s first boss in politics when she was council president. All are Democrats.
Shortly after becoming mayor, Young said he planned to stay in the office only through the end of the term and would run in the 2020 election for his former job as council president. But by June, Young said he was seriously considering running for mayor.
Young is the first mayor from East Baltimore since Clarence Du Burns, who became the city’s first African American mayor in 1987, also stepping up to the role from the council president’s seat.
Joining the City Council in 1996, Young was selected to fill a vacancy. He won his first election in 1999.
A graduate of Northern High School, Young is a former administrator at the Johns Hopkins Hospital radiology department. He and his wife, Darlene, have two children and three grandchildren.
Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.