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Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s lead holds as Brandon Scott picks up some votes

Baltimore mayor Jack Young reacts to the results of the primary election.

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon’s lead in the Democratic primary for Baltimore mayor held Friday with the release of additional returns.

After a day of counting and scanning, the state elections board published returns based on about two-thirds of ballots received so far.

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The returns showed Dixon with 30% of the vote, followed by City Council President Brandon Scott with 26%. Former U.S. Treasury Department official Mary Miller rounded out the top three with 16%. Scott made slight gains, based on the latest data, as he narrowed the gap between Dixon and himself.

The leading candidates in the crowded race have stressed the need to ensure every ballot is counted in light of the problems that have plagued Maryland’s first attempt at a mostly mail-in election. Results in the city have trickled, rather than poured, out since Tuesday’s primary.

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In other returns updated Friday night, state Del. Nick Mosby maintained his substantial lead in the Democratic primary for Baltimore City Council president. In the Democratic primary for Baltimore comptroller, City Councilman Bill Henry continued to lead over incumbent Joan Pratt.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young — lagging far behind the front-runners in his bid to hold onto his seat — acknowledged Friday he won’t be keeping his job. Returns showed the incumbent mayor in fifth place, with 7% of the vote.

“I accept it, but I’m still the mayor until December,” he said after a news conference. “I’m sorry the citizens didn’t see all the good things I was doing. They wanted change. They have change.”

Recent polls showed the majority of Baltimore residents felt the city was moving in the wrong direction, and their frustration with the status quo may have contributed to Young’s lackluster result.

Voters grappled with Baltimore’s unrelenting violent crime, the coronavirus pandemic, and the Memorial Day death in Minneapolis of George Floyd in police custody, which touched off protests in Baltimore and across the country against police brutality and racism.

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, said he believes voters looked for a leader they know and who reminded them of when times were better in Baltimore.

“People wanted a change, but not a change that carries a lot of uncertainty,” Crenson said of Dixon’s position at the front of the pack. She was considered by many a competent city manager during her tenure from 2007 to 2010, overseeing a decline in violent crime before she was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal.

While Dixon’s lead held, her victory was not assured. Tens of thousands of votes have not yet been counted, and it’s unclear whether the outstanding ballots will break down the same way as those already tabulated.

City elections staff counted more than 92,000 votes through Friday. They’ve received more than 136,000 Democratic ballots back via mail or drop boxes, and 6,200 people voted in person Tuesday.

It’s unclear how many ballots are still outstanding, but turnout has already surpassed that of the 2016 Democratic primary.

Some analysts consider it a two-way race between Dixon and Scott.

Baltimore City Mayor - Dem

Results of Baltimore City mayoral primary
Baltimore City Mayor Democratic
Candidate
votes
Brandon Scott (Democratic)
43,927
29.6%
Sheila Dixon (Democratic)
40,782
27.5%
Mary Miller (Democratic)
23,193
15.6%
Thiru Vignarajah (Democratic)
17,080
11.5%
Bernard C. "Jack" Young (Democratic)
9,256
6.2%
T. J. Smith (Democratic)
8,593
5.8%
Carlmichael Cannady (Democratic)
2,473
1.7%
Mary Washington (Democratic)
1,028
0.69%
Valerie Cunningham (Democratic)
339
0.23%
Keith Scott (Democratic)
295
0.2%
Yasaun Young (Democratic)
184
0.12%
Ralph Johnson, Jr. (Democratic)
177
0.12%
Yolanda Pulley (Democratic)
152
0.1%
Lou Catelli (Democratic)
151
0.1%
Dante Swinton (Democratic)
143
0%
Michael Jenson (Democratic)
131
0%
Brian Salsberry (Democratic)
129
0%
Rikki Vaughn (Democratic)
116
0%
Liri Fusha (Democratic)
57
0%
Terry McCready (Democratic)
46
0%
Sean Gresh (Democratic)
45
0%
James Jones II (Democratic)
33
0%
Erik Powery (Democratic)
32
0%
Frederick Ware-Newsome (Democratic)
31
0%
3 of 4 precincts reporting

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said it’s unknown how “late deciders” are inclined to lean.

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“These are the questions about mail-in ballots that political scientists have yet to figure out. We don’t know those answers,” she said.

“What we do know is that Sheila is ahead,” Kromer added. “The late deciders would have to break hard for Brandon. ... They would have to break really hard for Mary Miller. I just don’t think she has the votes.”

Dixon had 27,600 votes at the end of Friday’s count, while Scott had just under 24,000. Miller had 15,100 votes.

Returns in the mayor’s race also showed former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah with 12%, and former Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith with 6% support; he conceded Wednesday.

Maryland’s mail-in election saw several problems, prompting calls for the state elections director to resign. Armstead Jones, the city elections director, has also come under fire.

After a two-day delay, Baltimore elections workers spent hours Friday counting ballots delivered by mail or placed in drop boxes since the weekend. They plan to resume at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The delays on results, while somewhat expected, have nevertheless left candidates and residents in limbo.

Young said he doesn’t think anyone with the state or city elections boards should lose their jobs over the way the election was handled. The mayor, known for some of his verbal gaffes, joked that he could say what’s really on his mind, now that he’s no longer in the running.

“I can be frank now. I can say what I want to say, but I’ll keep it as professional as I can,” he said. “No one has a job where they don’t make mistakes, OK? This is something that’s never happened in the City of Baltimore with mail-in ballots. It’s new to the state of Maryland. You expect some kinks.”

Young said he will keeping working for the next seven months to move Baltimore forward. He said he’s the only person who has led the city through a ransomware attack, a pandemic and now protests against police brutality and racism.

“I’m going to continue to do my job,” he said.

Young assumed the office of mayor, moving up from City Council president, about a year ago after Democrat Catherine Pugh resigned amid a corruption scandal.

Baltimore Sun reporter Wilborn P. Nobles III contributed to this article.

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