Almost 40% of Democratic primary voters say they’re unsure who they’ll pick to become the next Baltimore City Council President. But among those who say they have decided, Delegate Nick Mosby has a nine-point advantage, a new poll released by WYPR, the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore finds.
Mosby enjoyed 26% support in the poll, followed by former City Councilman Carl Stokes with 17%.
The field to become the city’s top legislator and wrangler of the city council is not nearly as crowded as the field of mayoral hopefuls, but both races are characterized by high rates of uncertainty from a pool of voters that largely resemble Baltimore’s traditional electorate.
The office is viewed as a steppingstone to mayor: three of Baltimore’s four most recent mayors were city council presidents who succeeded to the top office after their predecessors resigned.
The results of the WYPR, Sun and UB poll are based on a survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters in Baltimore randomly selected from a file provided by the city's Board of Elections. All voters answered questions between February 20 - 29. The poll was conducted by OpinionWorks of Annapolis and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Nick Mosby — 26%
Carl Stokes — 17%
Shannon Sneed — 10%
Leon Pinkett — 4%
Someone else — 1%
Undecided — 39%
Would not say — 2%
Polled voters were asked who they would cast their ballots for if the April primary were today. If they said they were undecided, they were asked which candidate they lean toward. The numbers above reflect the answers to both of those questions.
Roger Hartley, the dean of UB’s College of Public Affairs, says it’s understandable that so many voters are undecided with only two months to go. With incumbent Council President Brandon Scott running for the Democratic mayoral nomination the seat is up for grabs and the crowded mayoral field is likely distracting from this race.
Plus, voters probably don’t recognize every name on the ballot.
“The fact that such a high percentage of likely voters have not made a decision is pretty simple,” Hartley said. “They really see a lot of different candidates that they don't know a lot about.”
Of candidates who did enjoy voter support, Mosby is at the top of the pack with a crisp nine-point lead over former city councilman Carl Stokes.
Steve Raabe, owner of OpinionWorks, says it’s Mosby’s “race to lose.”
“He's got very strong name identification across the city,” Raabe said “Whether it stays that way with about 40% undecided is obviously a big question mark.”
The Democrat represented West Baltimore on the City Council from 2011 to 2016. In 2017, he was sworn into the Maryland House of Delegates; he represents the 40th legislative district. He is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the Pimlico Community Development Authority and the Marijuana Legalization Work Group.
Mosby has more support from women than men, and large support among black voters, the poll found.
He is married to Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney. He ran for mayor in 2016 but dropped out shortly before the primary to throw his support behind Catherine Pugh.
Back then, a Baltimore Sun poll found that a third of voters said they were less likely to vote for Mosby because of his marriage: “Political observers questioned the potential concentration of power,” the Sun reported.
“That particular dynamic is not so acute today,” said Raabe. “Council president is a different office than mayor.”
Hartley, the UB dean, said he would’ve guessed this race might be a little bit closer.
Like Mosby, Stokes also ran for mayor in 2016. He received only 3.5% of the Democratic primary vote. It was hardly his first attempt at a citywide office. In 1999, he was the Democratic frontrunner until his run was derailed by false statements in his own campaign literature, which incorrectly said the politician had graduated from college.
He also ran for city council president against future mayors Sheila Dixon and Catherine Pugh, finishing third in 2003. He had another brief mayoral run in 2011.
Stokes served as a city councilman from 2010 to 2016, representing the city’s 12th district. He was the vice chair of the Education and Executive Appointments Committee.
He is likely enjoying some name recognition, Hartley said.
Shannon Sneed, a freshman councilwoman, trails by Stokes by seven points. The former journalist is the chair of the council’s Labor Committee and the vice chair of the Land Use Committee. She has scored endorsements from powerful labor unions 1199SEIU and 32BJ and introduced legislation to ban gag orders and require large city labor contracts to abide by union standards.
“Those endorsements do have a powerful rep,” Hartley said, noting the boots-on-the-ground help they and other large unions often lend endorsed candidates. “Those types of endorsements can really, really matter. It’s not just about the endorsement but appealing to the rank and file.”
Sneed, the only woman running for the office, is more popular among men than women, the poll found.
“Sneed and (Councilman Leon) Pinkett are known probably well in their districts, but are relatively young to the council,” Hartley said. “Perhaps they don't have the same amount of name recognition because they're known in their districts, but not further outside.”
Pinkett is also a freshman councilman. He serves as the Vice Chair of both the Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Transportation Committee.
Despite trailing in the poll, Stokes and Sneed could be well positioned, Hartley said. If voters, groups or coalitions decide they need an alternative to Nick Mosby and aggressively back one of the two with additional cash, support and endorsements, that candidate could put up quite a fight, he explained.