The first competitive race for Baltimore sheriff in years remained too close to call early Wednesday, but challenger Sam Cogen held a razor-thin lead over 33-year incumbent Sheriff John Anderson.
With early voting results tabulated and 95% of primary day precincts reporting, Cogen led with 50.2% of the vote. Anderson, Baltimore’s sheriff since 1989, trailed with 49.8% of the vote. A 181-vote margin separated the two.
The early returns presented only a partial picture of all votes cast. Almost 44,000 Democratic city voters requested mail-in ballots this primary season, and by primary day, 20,531 of those ballots had been returned. Canvassing of mail-in ballots won’t begin until Thursday, a delay required by Maryland law.
Unofficial primary day vote totals showed a near tie with Anderson receiving 15,154 votes and Cogen receiving 15,421. City election officials said about 23,000 people voted in person on primary day by 6:30 p.m. About 12,300 votes were cast in the race during the weeklong early voting window.
Anderson, 75, has faced a spirited challenge from Cogen, 48, who served as a deputy in Anderson’s office until leaving in November 2021. Anderson has served in the post since 1989.
Cogen has pledged to modernize the office, which he said has been technologically inadequate during Anderson’s tenure. Cogen has also promised reforms to “humanize” the city’s eviction process, which falls under the sheriff’s authority.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Anderson faced public criticism from many members of the Baltimore City Council during the city’s budget hearing process. Members were critical of Anderson’s approach to eviction postings.
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Anderson’s staff places eviction notices on shared or exterior doors to apartment buildings when deputies find the doors to be locked. A 2001 opinion from then-Attorney General Joseph Curran calls for notices to be placed on the property being repossessed, specifically the individual apartment, absent “extraordinary circumstances.”
Anderson and his staff argued they are not bound by the opinion.
The dispute culminated with a $500,000 cut to the sheriff’s office budget, narrowly approved by the City Council in late June.
Just two weeks later, nine members of the City Council and Comptroller Bill Henry endorsed Cogen at a news conference in front of City Hall.
Of the endorsing members — John Bullock, Kristerfer Burnett, Zeke Cohen, Mark Conway, Eric Costello, Ryan Dorsey, Antonio Glover, Odette Ramos and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer — six also voted for the cut to Anderson’s budget.
Anderson has not addressed the City Council endorsements but released a statement earlier this month calling the budget cuts “alarming and very concerning.”
“This move will have a tremendous impact on the operational support services currently provided to the Baltimore Police Department Patrol Services by the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, support provided for Baltimore City Special Events, service of warrants, and planning and implementation for body worn cameras,” Anderson said.