Brandon Scott Is Baltimore’s Next Mayor; Mosby And Henry Also Elected To Citywide Offices
Election Day proved to be a big one for Baltimore City Democrats, who declared in victory their citywide races.
Come December, Brandon Scott, the City Council President will head to the mayor’s office, while Del. Nick Mosby will take over Scott’s current job and Councilman Bill Henry will become comptroller. Their victories represent the replacement of older faces with younger ones in all three citywide offices.
“Your next mayor will wake up every day, focus on making this city safer, on getting you the help you need, on throwing everything that I have in my grasp and power at the problem,” said Scott during a small Tuesday night event at the Inner Harbor’s Sound Stage. “I believe in the great people of this city and what we are capable of achieving when we stand united.”
Scott had 72% of early returns on Monday night, which accounted for early in-person ballots and mail-in votes.
The citywide races’ results are hardly a surprise: in deep blue Baltimore, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 10 to 1.
Scott won the Democratic primary by a slender margin in June, arguing that his decade of experience at City Hall, as a staffer, councilman and currently as City Council President, coupled with his relative youth and progressive rather than establishment Democratic values made him uniquely qualified to lead Baltimore.
Throughout his City Hall tenure and campaign, Scott often pointed to his childhood in Park Heights, where he witnessed his first shooting before the age of 10 and dealt with racism firsthand.
“We can work to right the historical wrongs that have divided Baltimore for too long and held us back. It's not hard, it’s whether we are committed to doing it,” Scott, who delivered his speech before a backdrop of supporters on Zoom, said Tuesday night. “Our city has been on a difficult and bumpy path, but isn't destined to always be that way.”
He’ll take office in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and renewed cries for racial justice, as the spectre of past mayoral scandals looms over City Hall. Scott was clear that he can’t do it alone.
“I am not the savior,” he said in a brief interview before his victory speech. “One person cannot fix problems that have existed longer than I have been alive.”
Scott became City Council President in the spring of last year, after ex-mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation amid the Healthy Holly scandal led to a shuffling of City Hall offices. The council was tasked with selecting a replacement for then-City Council President Jack Young, who automatically became mayor after Pugh’s departure. Young gathered about 6% of the Democratic mayoral primary vote in June.
Longtime city councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who also serves as vice president of the body, initially campaigned for the seat, but Scott privately argued to the rest of the council that recovering from the corruption scandal required fresher, younger leadership. He eventually earned Middleton’s support and was unanimously elected by their peers.
“It's hard to say that he's not an insider because he's been around,” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “But he was part of a very important wave of bringing a different type of progressivism, a different type of energy and and focus on the city.”
Scott’s Democratic primary and general election opponents alike often criticized his age, but Joyce Martin, who cast a ballot for Scott at Mount Pleasant Church and Ministries on Tuesday morning, said the 36-year-old’s age is what she likes about him.
“We need some new energy,” Martin said. “Let the young people come in. Let them come from the city they run — they know what the city needs.”
Scott defeated Independent candidate and businessman Bob Wallace, who waged a well-financed campaign and lambasted Scott’s failure to resolve deep-seated issues of crime and poverty in his decade at City Hall. Wallace had 19.6% of early votes and conceded to Scott on Tuesday night. Republican Shannon Wright, a pastor and former youth counselor, had 6.4%.
Hartley of the UB said that Wallace’s campaign may have believed that because the Democratic primary split the vote among so many different candidates, Wallace had a shot at capturing those who didn’t originally vote for Scott.
“But that's making a massive assumption that Democrats aren't going to vote for their nominee in the general election,” Harley said.
Del. Nick Mosby declared victory in the City Council President’s race with 80% of the preliminary vote, while Republican Jovani Patterson had 17.6%.
“We're going to be confident and we'll be ready on day one,” Mosby said outside City Hall on Tuesday night, alongside some Democratic nominees for city council. “I'm excited to go and tackle some of the challenges that we are facing today.”
The 40-year-old currently represents the 40th district in the State House, where he has served since 2017. He represented West Baltimore as a 7th district city councilman from 2011 to 2016, when he left to run for mayor but garnered only about 5% of the Democratic primary vote. He dropped out shortly before the election to throw his support behind Catherine Pugh.
Mosby campaigned on his Ban the Box legislation, and at the pandemic’s onset helped lead the fight for Maryland to release data that breaks down COVID-19 cases by race and zip code.
He is married to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who made frequent appearances in his election ads and literature.
Hartley said Mosby’s experiences in both Annapolis and City Hall likely helped him capture the vote.
“He's in an interesting position to be able to link the city with Annapolis, and especially in his role as the chair of the Board of Estimates,” Hartley said.
“I think it's really, really important right now for him to clear the air and to disclose everything that might be out there that's financially uncertain for him, so that those questions don't continue to be asked,” Hartley said.
On Tuesday night, Mosby suggested that the stories are nothing but eleventh hour political skullduggery.
“When people see a flurry of stuff two weeks before an election, they understand what it is,” he said.
Bill Henry, a 52-year-old city councilman from Northeast Baltimore who has represented the 4th district for over a decade, ran unopposed in the comptroller’s race after an unusually dramatic Democratic primary campaign against Joan Pratt, who served as comptroller for over 20 years.
Pratt also co-owned a business, 2 Chic Boutique, with disgraced ex-mayor Pugh. Though Pratt was never charged with anything, federal prosecutors said Pugh used the business to illegally funnel money into her campaign. Pratt, who managed the boutique’s books, has maintained that she knew nothing about Pugh’s illicit use of the business.
But voters were skeptical, and Henry used his solid legislative record as a city councilman as well as the questions behind Pratt’s business relationship with Pugh to eke out a win.
The race marked the first time in a generation that someone seriously challenged Pratt. That novelty allowed Henry to bring renewed attention to the role of comptroller, which is a powerful one: the officeholder acts as the city’s fiscal watchdog and oversees the auditing process.
“I like to think that one of the things I was successful at as a council person was raising the expectations of what a council person should be doing,” Henry said. “Now I need to go back and restore people's expectations of what a comptroller should be and what a comptroller should be doing.”
Hartley of the University of Baltimore said Henry’s energy, enthusiasm and emphasis on modernizing the office may have resounding effects in City Hall.
“If indeed Bill Henry is in a position where he's able to change the audit policies, and do audits of city agencies that perhaps haven't been audited in a long time, are we prepared for what they find?” he asked. “Henry will be in a great position to pull those levers to make those discoveries.”
Henry quipped that because he ran unopposed, much of his election anxiety surrounded the presidential race, which is not expected to be finalized for several days.
“I feel much more confident that we are on the verge of making some really good decisions for local government,” he said. “It would be really, really nice to have the federal government be more effective of a partner than they have been for a long time now.”
“I will be in front of my TV, looking at my phone, doing everything I can do to see how the people of America vote,” he said, adding that he’s confident that Democrats will eke out a win in the White House, too.
Hartley of UB said that a Democrat in the White House is more likely to build relationships with Baltimore than its current occupant.
“The job of the mayor may be a little different under a Biden administration,” he said. “We may see Brandon Scott in his team in Washington, D.C. on the MARC train pretty often, going down there to try to have meetings.”