Brandon Scott, Baltimore City’s Democratic mayoral primary winner, delivered his acceptance speech outside of his grandmother’s brick row house on Loyola Northway in Park Heights on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by family.
“Our campaign was about proving to the world that a young black man who grew up in the forgotten Baltimore here in Park Heights could survive everything that you have to live through in Baltimore: the gun violence, underfunded schools living in neighborhoods where vacant homes live in areas where you know that you are not going to be recognized even as human by your own city government,” he said. “That somebody could survive all of that to be the leader of this city.”
Scott became a firsthand witness to Baltimore’s violence when he saw his first shooting at age 10. He became a city hall aide shortly after graduating from St. Mary's College of Maryland, and was elected City Council’s 2nd district representative in 2011. Last year, he became City Council President after convincing council peers he was up to the task during a shuffling of political offices that kicked off with former mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation.
The 36-year-old progressive campaigned in midst of the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality. Days before the June 2 primary, Scott was in the streets in solidarity alongside protestors. In deep-blue Baltimore, winning the Democratic nomination is tantamount to winning in November. When that time comes, Scott said, life cannot go back to normal.
“We all are gonna have to be willing to look at ourselves in the mirror and be uncomfortable,” he said. “Going back to normal in Baltimore was leaving generations of people, neighborhoods behind, families behind. And that's not the Baltimore that we're trying to build.”
The mayoral primary field was crowded: Scott has 29.4% of the preliminary vote. After daily updates to the results of Maryland’s first ever statewide mail-in primary, Scott declared victory Tuesday night after leading former mayor Sheila Dixon by the amount of remaining uncounted ballots in the race. In the latest numbers, Dixon has 27.7% of the vote. Scott, acknowledging the slim margin, said he plans to be a mayor for the entire city, not just his supporters. He also thanked Dixon.
“I want to say thank you for running a clean race about the future of Baltimore City,” he said. “Thank you for showing people that Baltimore does believe in second chances. And thank you for remaining committed to the city of Baltimore for your entire service and your entire life in the city of Baltimore.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Dixon released her first statement since Scott claimed victory.
“Thank you for your votes, your prayers and your words of encouragement over the last few days,” she said. “I’m also grateful to the staff of the Board of Elections who have been sorting and counting ballots since Election Day. Their work is very important and we should let them finish their job of counting every vote in this election.”
Scott currently leads Dixon by more than 2,300 votes; the Board of Elections has said that less than 2,000 votes remain uncounted.
After Scott finished delivering his speech in the hot sun, his mother Donna Scott and his grandmother Joyce Harden retreated to the shade of Harden’s front porch. His mother said that her son has carried Park Heights with him throughout his career.
“What he went through, that has a lot of bearing on how he feels and the changes that he thinks he must put in,” she said. “He loves people, first and foremost he loves helping other people.”
The 36-year-old is poised to be the youngest ever mayor. That doesn’t surprise his mother and grandmother.
“He was an old child,” Harden said. “We used to call him old man.”
“His aunt used to say he’d be a politician or a preacher,” Scott’s mother said. “So she called that one right.”
One week ago, former mayor Sheila Dixon was leading Scott when Marvin James, his campaign manager, released a statement saying the city council president would win once all the votes were counted.
“Everyone thought Marvin was insane when he put that statement out last week,” Scott said, “Except us.”
James said he knew the numbers would work out thanks to extensive research on the flow of results from mail-in ballot campaigns across the country, as well as past Baltimore voting patterns.
“There were certain districts that we could tell by turnout, by 2016 results that would be most likely for Brandon,” James said. “I think we just kind of had that vision to be able to see that before other people.
On Tuesday night, when the latest results showed Dixon could not overtake Scott’s lead, James immediately tried to reach him.
“I'm freaking out because he's not answering his phone,” James recalled. “And then he messages me, says ‘in DPW hearing LOL.’ ”
James sent him a text back that read “MAYOR. CONGRATULATIONS SIR.”
Scott’s first priority as mayor will depend on what happens in the next six months, as the pandemic and civil unrest continue, he said. But gradually re-aligning the city budget through the lens of racial equity is on the docket.
“It’s not going to be easy, Scott said. “But it's the right thing to do. And I'm going to take that into office, take that mandate for change into office.”
In the meantime, Scott has asked Mayor Jack Young to create a task force to figure out how to cut police spending.