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In Baltimore’s District 9, a clash between a funded incumbent and three cashless opponents

In 2016, Baltimore City Council member John T. Bullock captured over half the vote in his district’s six-person Democratic primary, joining a cadre of young, progressive candidates who assumed leadership roles in the city that year.

Four years later, the incumbent hopes to reclaim his seat, armed with a slew of endorsements from groups including Bikemore, Clean Water Action and Progressive Maryland. This time, he faces three challengers who are all funding their own campaigns, including at least one supporter from the previous cycle.

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Derwin Hannah, a truck driver who ran for City Council in 2011, said though he campaigned for Bullock in 2016, the councilman has not lived up to his promises to help create a safer, cleaner or more equitable Baltimore.

“I never saw any growth or change — things have only gotten worse,” said Hannah, who has signed an affidavit pledging not to raise or spend more than $1,000 on the campaign. “If you’re in public office, you’ve got to represent the people who put you there, and at least let them know you’re concerned.”

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Bullock, a professor and Ph.D recipient, had a cash balance of about $37,000 in campaign finance contributions as of April. He said he has worked to build coalitions across the city to enact tangible change, citing the creation and funding of city’s Affordable Housing Trust and the passage of Baltimore’s ban on Styrofoam as examples of his efficacy on the council.

“I recognize no one, myself included, on the council is going to be a savior, and no one can change the world by themselves,” he said. “Part of it is working on these issues and looking at them as interconnected, part of it is legislation, and another part of it is community.”

Democrats Tyrone Barnwell and Amefike Kofi Changamire also hope to unseat Bullock. Changamire, a Baltimore City public schools teacher, said while the incumbent has passed citywide legislation, it has come at the expense of the district’s black residents.

Most of the district is black, city data show, and many families live below the poverty line. It includes heavily blighted neighborhoods including Sandtown-Winchester and Carrollton Ridge.

“We have the most ignored population,” Changamire said, adding that, if elected, he would work to provide 0% interest home loans for those descended from enslaved persons and supply vouchers for sanitation issues such as bed bug removal. “We don’t even have a supermarket in the 9th District. My opponent sat for four years.”

Bullock acknowledged he has more work to do.

“I’m running for reelection because in four years, we can make some change, but have farther to go,” he said. “I recognize there’s impatience, and I wish we could change some of these conditions with a magic wand, but that’s not possible.”

Both Changamire and Barnwell have also pledged not to raise or spend more than $1,000 on the campaign, giving Bullock a sizable spending advantage in this four-person race.

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