City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed has joined fellow council member Leon Pinkett in the Democratic primary race to be Baltimore’s next City Council President and drive city legislation.
The freshman councilwoman announced her run for the office on Thursday.
The current council president, Brandon Scott, recently declared his candidacy for mayor.
The city council president is the only council office elected at-large by Baltimore voters. They set legislative priorities and act as a sort of ringleader of the 14-member council. As a member of the Board of Estimates, the president is one of five people who can vote upon city spending.
The city council president also assigns committee leadership to council members, who in turn drive the committee’s agendas and legislation. Scott, for example, gave the council a more progressive spin by appointing Sneed as the chair of the Labor Committee and Councilman Ryan Dorsey as chair of the Transportation Committee.
“The president's role is to make sure that the council is functioning efficiently, effectively and in a transparent manner,” Scott told WYPR.
Scott said he isn’t ready to endorse any city council president candidates and that both Sneed and Pinkett care deeply for the city.
“I think that the next council president should be someone who wants to continue the work of transforming the city council into a more modern, more active, progressive body,” he said.
Alums of the highly visible office have gone on to become mayor, including Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Shelia Dixon.
In accordance with city charter, the council president automatically takes the top office in the event a mayor resigns. Former city council president Jack Young became mayor after Catherine Pugh’s resignation. After taking that office, Young insisted that he would try to return as city council president in 2020, but he has been considering a run for mayor. Young’s spokesman Lester Davis declined to comment for this story.
In a statement issued to WYPR on Wednesday, Sneed said the people of Baltimore are “ready for leadership that’s focused on rooting out corruption and fighting for policies that protect hard working families across the city.”
Sneed, 38, lives in Ellwood Park with her husband and young daughter. She represents East Baltimore’s 13th district.
She received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a master’s in communications from Morgan State University. Sneed worked at WJZ as a journalist for eight years before her first run for the 13th district seat in 2011. After a narrow loss as a write-in candidate, she worked for the Mayor's Office of Employment Development before winning the office in 2016.
She serves as the chair of the labor committee and vice chair of the Land Use committee. She is also a member of the Budget and Appropriations, Housing and Urban Affairs, Legislative Investigations, Public Safety and Judiciary committees. Sneed recently introduced a bill that would ban gag orders, the practice of forcing police brutality victims to sign nondisclosure agreements in exchange for settlements.
Pinkett represents the 7th district in West Baltimore. He was born and raised in Baltimore and lives in Reservoir Hill with his wife and two daughters.
He serves as the Vice Chair of both the Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Transportation Committee and is a member of the Judiciary, Land Use, Public Safety, Education and Youth committees.
Pinkett received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Guilford College in North Carolina. Before his 2016 election, Pinkett served as the Assistant Deputy Mayor for the Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development. There, he focused on revitalization efforts throughout Baltimore.
His campaign issues focus on similar revitalization efforts, including attracting and retaining new supermarkets in food deserts, creating incentives for businesses in underserved areas and expanding recreation and after-school opportunities.
He also advocates for community-police partnerships and alternative programs for minors arrested for drug use.
Pinkett serves on the boards of the Waterfront Partnership Board, Food Desert Retail Strategy Organization, Maryland Fresh Food Retail Taskforce and BARCO. He is also an assistant pastor at New Harvest Ministries. He did not respond to interview requests from WYPR.
The Democratic primary, which usually determines the outcome of the general election, is on April 28.