Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, shown here at an event for the Chesapeake Bay in 2010, is running for re-election in today's city Democratic primary.
Voting in Baltimore's Democratic mayoral primary happening today, and in a city dominated by Democrats, the city's nominee is heavily favored to win the general election. The city's current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, took over in 2010 after former mayor Sheila Dixon resigned as part of a plea deal on a perjury charge.
Recent polls have shown the sitting mayor leading a field of challengers in the Democratic mayoral primary, but those seeking to take the nomination from her say they could succeed if enough of their supporters turn out. Rawlings-Blake's challengers are state Senator Catherine Pugh, former city planning director and mayoral chief of staff Otis Rolley, former councilman Jody Landers, Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway and nurse Wilton Wilson. Two Republicans, Vicki Ann Harding and Alfred Griffin, are competing for their party's mayoral nomination.
Residents are also voting for city council seats in today's primaries.
Baltimore Sun City Hall reporter Julie Scharper talked to WAMU's Matt McCleskey about the latest race details Sept. 12.
WAMU: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was the City Council president before stepping into the role as mayor since taking the top job. How have people in Balitmore received her?
Scharper: She's a very calm and steady leader. We've had some leaders such as Martin O'Malley who was a musician, of course, and was out there playing with his rock band, and Sheila Dixon who had a very interesting personality. In contrast to leaders like them, Rawlings-Blake has been a little bit more wonky. She's very policy-oriented, and she doesn't necessarily show a whole lot of emotion in public. But she's been a very calm and steady leader. She has led us through an unbelievable number of weather phenomenon. She came into office before double blizzards, and then we had a tornado, a hurricane, and an earthquake. She's gone with us through a couple of major budget deficits. So I think she's seen as a very reliable leader. Although, I think there's also some concerns from some voters that she's too closely allied to developers and the business community, and that she's made cuts to programs that really benefit middle income or lower income families, such as recreation centers and pools - the types of services that kids really appreciate.
WAMU: There are several Democrats in this primary race, a couple who have established more significant support. Tell us briefly about the challengers.
Scharper: State Sen. Catherine Pugh is a familiar name to Baltimore residents. She's been in politics here for a good 20 years, and she comes across as maybe a little more warmer in public than Rawlings-Blake does. When we see her at a campaign forum, she can really get the crowd emotional and worked up and rally a lot of support. And what our poll has showed, is that Rawlings-Blake has captured about 50 percent of the poll, whereas State Sen. Catherine Pugh and Otis Rolley, who's the former city planning director, has 12 and 10 percent of the vote, respectively.
WAMU: Now former mayor Sheila Dixon is not able to run this year, of course, according to the terms of her plea deal, but she's been advising some of these other challenging candidates. Why would they turn to her for guidance in this campaign?
Scharper: Rawlings-Blake has this sort of powerful democratic machine. She's very closely allied to Gov. O'Malley; she's received endorsements from most of the top democrats in the state - Elijah Cummings, Barbara Mikulski - and I think there aren't really a lot of options for the other candidates to tap into. And what our poll also showed is that Sheila Dixon is actually still pretty favorably received by many Baltimoreans. Although they don't want her to run for office again, about half of Baltimoreans said they thought she did a good job in office.