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Black candidate plans to run in Baltimore County’s second district following redistricting challenge

baltimore_county_council.jpg
Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government
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Baltimore County Council. Credit: John Lee

One of the plaintiffs who sued Baltimore County over its proposed council district map now plans to run for county council.

Tony Fugett, the former head of Baltimore County’s NAACP said he will challenge incumbent Izzy Patoka in the Democratic primary for the second council district seat.

Fugett and others, including the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, sued the county over the map, arguing it did not give Blacks a fair shot at winning more than one of seven council seats.

“I was disappointed with the leadership that I was seeing from the council and the county,” Fugett said. “And I said that there’s got to be a better way, or a better person that can lead the county.”

Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby signed off on a revised map that makes the second district, which includes Pikesville, a minority-majority district, meaning all minorities combined make up more than 50% of the voters. Minorities make up 56% of the people living in the redrawn second district. Black residents make up more than 41% of the second district’s population.

Fugett said having the second district redrawn to make it more favorable for a minority candidate did not factor into his decision to run.

“I think that I have that dynamic kind of a personality where I get along well with everyone,” Fugett said. “I’ve always been a win-win kind of a person.”

Fugett will be running against a well-financed incumbent.

According to his latest campaign finance report, Patoka has more than $625,000 on hand, more by far than any other council member.

In an interview before Fugett revealed his plans to challenge Patoka, the incumbent said, “If someone gets in, we’ll both campaign and the residents of the second district will make their choice.”

Patoka said he is already out knocking on doors in the neighborhoods that have been added to his district.

Patoka, who is Jewish, pointed out that when Judge Griggsby approved the revised map, she agreed with a point he made to the court that Jewish and Black communities in the second district typically vote together for like-minded candidates.

“For me, I have always worked well in a diverse community setting,” Patoka said.

The county council passed its original map in December. The suit was filed the next day. It argued the map violated the Voting Rights Act, because it had only one majority Black district, the fourth, although 30% of the county’s population is African American. The fourth district includes Owings Mills.

Under the original map the first district, which includes Catonsville, was just barely a minority-majority district. But the plaintiffs argued that was not good enough, since minorities make up nearly 50% of the county’s population.

Judge Griggsby agreed and ordered the county to redraw its map. She accepted the revised version, which made the second district minority-majority. So now the first, second and fourth districts, which make up the county’s west side, are all minority-majority.

The plaintiffs, which fell short of their goal to have two Black-majority districts, can appeal the judge’s decision.

Meredith Curtis Goode, the communications director for the ACLU of Maryland, said they have until April 29 to decide that.

Fugett, who is 68, is the director of the central collection unit for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. From 2000 until 2020, he served in the leadership of the Baltimore County NAACP, including two terms as its president. Before that he was on the national board of the NAACP.

This is his first time running for public office.

Fugett said, “When I stepped down (from the NAACP leadership) I said that there may be a calling for me to do greater service for Baltimore County.”

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