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Elections

Ivan Bates with lead in Baltimore state’s attorney’s race in early returns, but it’s too soon to call it

While there are too many votes left to be tabulated to declare a winner, defense attorney Ivan Bates has a sizable lead in the three-way race to be Baltimore’s next top prosecutor.

Although most precincts have reported, there are at least 20,000 mail-in ballots to be counted in the race between incumbent Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Bates and former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah.

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Bates led all candidates with 41% of the vote with 95% of precincts reporting as of 12:30 a.m. Mosby was in second with 32%, and Vignarajah was in third with about 27%. About 47,000 ballots have been counted so far, including 13,100 early votes. Bates’ lead remained constant throughout Tuesday night as returns continued to flow in.

“We don’t really know the outcome, but let’s just go ahead and live in the moment and know that we worked hard to get us to the point,” Bates told supporters Tuesday night. “No matter what, we ran a really amazing race, and we did it together as a team.”

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Mosby appeared around 11:40 p.m. before a crowd of supporters and gaggle of television cameras. She thanked family, friends and staff for their sacrifices at home and in the office before saying she would continue fighting until the end.

”We made history,” Mosby said. Without acknowledging the early deficit she faces, Mosby noted the roughly 20,000 outstanding mail-in ballots that remain to be counted.

”I’m going to fight, the same way I fought to get into this position, until every single vote is counted,” Mosby said.

Election officials mailed nearly 44,000 Democratic primary ballots in Baltimore City, and about 28,000 people had voted on election day as of 6:30 p.m., according to city election officials. Turnout appears to be lower than in 2018 when 80,000 people voted. At least 20,000 mail-in ballots had been returned as of Tuesday morning. Those ballots cannot be counted until Thursday under Maryland law.

The winner of the primary will face attorney Roya Hanna, who dropped out of the Democratic race to run as an independent, in November’s general election.

Although the candidates for the Democratic primary are unchanged compared to four years ago, the circumstances are different: Mosby is under federal indictment.

She is charged with perjury and making false statements on mortgage applications for a pair of properties in Florida — an eight-bedroom house near Disney World and a condo on the Gulf Coast.

Prosecutors allege Mosby exploited the federal CARES Act when she withdrew about $90,000 from her city retirement savings under the guise of suffering financial hardship because of the coronavirus. They say she used the money for down payments on the Florida homes, but she did not disclose a federal tax lien on a loan application and lied about her intentions for the other property to lock in a lower interest rate.

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The incumbent has rallied support on the campaign trail behind the idea that she was being prosecuted for disrupting the status quo.

Mosby continued to tout her policies of ending the prosecution of certain low-level offenses, creating a unit to review the sentences of people who have served lengthy terms behind bars and pouring resources into services for crime victims.

“We have been through way too much as a city to go backwards,” Mosby said on social media as an election day appeal to voters. “We have to continue to go forward. We cannot go back to an era of zero-tolerance policing, which led to mass incarceration and police abuse.”

At Melba’s Place on Greenmount Avenue, dozens of Mosby’s supporters wore her red campaign shirts Tuesday night.

West Baltimore resident Kevin Jones, 37, said he supports Mosby’s decision to stop certain arrests. He said he appreciates the state’s Attorney’s efforts to be present in communities.

”She does a lot for the city. She is for the people,” Jones said. “She don’t tolerate unnecessary arrests — it’s got to make sense; she don’t just throw people in prison.”

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Bates and Vignarajah spent the campaign focusing on the persistent violence in the city.

Baltimore has surpassed 300 homicides every year throughout Mosby’s tenure, which began in 2015. Homicides and nonfatal shootings this year are outpacing 2021.

The challengers distinguished themselves from Mosby, denouncing many of her policies. Both said they would begin to prosecute the types of cases Mosby stopped, such as drug possession and trespassing — if only to connect those arrested with treatment and support.

Mosby won the 2018 Democratic primary with nearly half the vote.

Bates and Vignarajah also point to the vacancies in Mosby’s office — The Baltimore Sun reported in June the shortage of prosecutors might threaten public safety — as proof her leadership is ineffective. Bates said it will take a decade to return the office to prominence.

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Bates announced his candidacy in November and has hammered Mosby for the violence in the city throughout her tenure. In March, he unveiled a crime plan that featured beefed-up gun prosecutions.

Vignarajah joined the race in March, bringing plans tailored to particular issues. His timelines are ambitious: three months to get squeegee workers off busy intersections; two years to bring down the murder rate.

Maryland Policy & Politics

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The former deputy attorney general for Maryland boasts an impressive resume, but revelations about how he treated women who worked for him and other subordinates clouded his campaign.

The Sun reported he abused and harassed staff at the attorney general’s office and when he was a prosecutor at the state’s attorney’s office, going so far as threatening to destroy one person’s career.

Vignarajah did not address any of the specific accusations of misconduct but said in an interview Monday that he has grown as a manager.

“Like every manager, like every person, I have made mistakes and learned from them,” Vignarajah said. “I think that I am a better manager for it.”

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