Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said Wednesday that his victory is about proving to the world that a young black man who grew up in one of Baltimore’s “forgotten" neighborhoods can be elected to lead the city and help move it forward.
“I want this to be an example to each and every young person in the city of Baltimore‚” Scott, 36, said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that your ZIP code, that your neighborhood, that your city is going to determine how high you can go.”
The City Council president addressed reporters from the front yard of his grandmother’s house, near where he grew up in Park Heights. It’s a neighborhood where nearly a third of households live below the poverty line, in a ZIP code that is among the state’s coronavirus hot spots.
Scott narrowly defeated former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was running to reclaim the office she lost a decade ago when she resigned amid a public corruption scandal. Scott held 29.4% of the votes counted so far in the primary election, according to the latest returns released Wednesday, while Dixon claimed 27.7%. He was ahead by nearly 2,400 votes.
Dixon has not conceded the tight race, and Scott said he has not yet talked with anyone from her campaign.
She said in a statement Wednesday that she is grateful to her supporters and to elections workers who have been tallying ballots.
“Their work is very important and we should let them finish their job of counting every vote in this election,” she said.
City elections officials tallied provisional ballots Wednesday that were cast during Maryland’s first attempt at a mostly mail-in election. They made little difference in the updated returns.
Of the approximately 1,800 provisional ballots cast, 1,178 were rejected, most because they were from voters who were not registered as either a Democrat or Republican.
On Friday, staff will scan a small number ballots cast by city residents who live overseas and a pool of standard ballots held back to be processed at the same time to protect the privacy of voters abroad.
Acknowledging a fractured electorate and the slim margin of his victory, Scott said he plans to be a mayor for all of Baltimore — not just those who voted for him.
Scott thanked Dixon for her dedication to the city.
He also thanked Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young for assuming leadership after former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned last year. She eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Scott said he looks forward to speaking with Young about the transition.
The current officeholder and his likely replacement appeared together in a Wednesday morning videoconference to approve 160 pages of routine city spending. Only after several minutes of regular business at the virtual Board of Estimates meeting did anyone address the sea change coming in Baltimore government.
Young conceded the race last week as his percentage of support remained in single digits. He acknowledged that the voters wanted change, and that’s what they got.
“You’re that change agent,” Young, 65, told Scott at the end of the board meeting. “I’m hoping and praying that you follow your heart.”
He congratulated the Council president and said he was glad that, for the most part, the mayoral candidates refrained from negative campaigning.
“I expect you to do a great job," Young said. “If I can help in any way, just let me know.”
“And I’m still the mayor until December,” he added with a laugh. He then turned to the city solicitor, who had remarked earlier in the meeting that she was having trouble with people’s titles: “He’s still the president!"
For his likely successor, Young offered a piece of advice: “Watch out for the snakes. There’s plenty of them."
Democratic Comptroller Joan Pratt also congratulated Scott on the win during the meeting. The longtime incumbent was defeated by City Councilman Bill Henry in their primary as she sought a seventh term as the city’s fiscal watchdog. She did not address her loss.
It’s the first time in more than two decades that the city is seeing turnover in each of its top three elected positions. State Del. Nick Mosby is the Democratic nominee for City Council president.
Scott said he is excited to work with Henry and Mosby in their new capacities. All three served together when Mosby was on the City Council.
“I look forward to us being able to actually do many of the good things that we talked about over the years,” Scott said.
Scott is part of a younger, more progressive group of city legislators that swept into office over the past decade, particularly in the 2016 election, which came after the unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered in police custody.
“It’s our time,” Scott said. “It’s our time to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, realizing the great work that was done and fixing the things that were broken.”
Scott must still run in the November general election, where he will face a Republican nominee and two unaffiliated candidates, including wealthy businessman Bob Wallace. In a city in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1, the Democratic primary has for decades determined who will be Baltimore’s mayor.
Even as the presumed next city executive, Scott’s championing charter amendments that would weaken Baltimore’s strong-mayor system. He’s been vocal about addressing the city’s unrelenting gun violence as a public health problem.
He is expected to take over a city gripped by high crime, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent protests against police brutality and racism.
Scott still has seven months left as Council president. His mother, Donna Scott, joked Wednesday that her son’s way of celebrating his victory “is going and writing another bill.”
After addressing reporters, he headed back to City Hall for a budget hearing.
He was tied up in a Department of Public Works hearing Tuesday night when the state elections board released the returns that showed him with an insurmountable lead over Dixon. His campaign manager tried twice to get him on the phone, but Scott texted that he was busy questioning city officials.
Finally, his campaign manager simply texted him: “MAYOR. CONGRATULATIONS SIR.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.