Dixon looks to re­join the race

De­feated in pri­mary, ex-mayor ex­pected to file today as write-in

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broadwater

For­mer Bal­ti­more Mayor Sheila Dixon, who nar­rowly lost the Demo­cratic pri­mary to re­claim her old job, is ex­pected to launch a write-in cam­paign for mayor today — a move that could shake up what’s been a rel­a­tively quiet gen­eral election race.

For months, sup­port­ers have urged Dixon to sub­mit the pa­per­work for a write- i n can­di­dacy. Dixon has sched­uled a news con­fer­ence for 11:30 a.m. today at the Bal­ti­more Board of Elec­tions headquarters.

“Peo­ple have been en­cour­ag­ing me,” Dixon said. “Peo­ple are not happy about what hap­pened in the pri­mary election. They are dis­heart­ened about vot­ing in the gen­eral election. We need peo­ple to come out to vote in Novem­ber. This is a cru­cial election.”

Dixon and sup­port­ers cam­paigned at a rainy fes­ti­val in Pig­town on Satur­day, en­cour­ag­ing vot­ers to write in Dixon’s name on Election Day. Sev­eral sup­port­ers Dixon

said she plans to file pa­per­work today to run.

They cite ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dur­ing the pri­mary election. State elec­tions of­fi­cials found that 1,650 bal­lots were han­dled im­prop­erly and eight data files went miss­ing for about a day af­ter the election.

State Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh won the Demo­cratic pri­mary for mayor. Dixon sup­port­ers also ac­cuse Pugh of promis­ing peo­ple jobs and food in ex­change for votes.

“I think she was robbed,” said Doni Glover, a sup­porter who is pro­mot­ing Dixon’s write-in cam­paign on so­cial me­dia. “Sheila won Election Day. Election Day was the purer vote.”

In a 13-can­di­date field, Dixon re­ceived votes from 46,301 Bal­ti­more­ans dur­ing April’s pri­mary election. She won170 of 200 pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can precincts in Bal­ti­more. Pugh re­ceived 48,709 votes, and fin­ished ei­ther first or se­cond in ev­ery precinct in the city, whether pre­dom­i­nantly white or black.

Pugh has been run­ning against Repub­li­can Alan Walden and Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris.

Dur­ing the pri­mary cam­paign, dozens of can­di­dates fo­rums were held through­out Bal­ti­more. Since the pri­mary, there has been only one may­oral fo­rum.

Write-in cam­paigns are dif­fi­cult to win, but sev­eral can­di­dates have come close in Bal­ti­more.

In 2011, Demo­cratic chal­lenger Shan­non Sneed came within 300 votes of un­seat­ing in­cum­bent Coun­cil­man Warren Branch through a write-in cam­paign in East Bal­ti­more. She gar­nered 1,489 votes to Branch’s 1,741.

The 1970s saw at least two high-pro­file write-in cam­paigns.

The first black state’s at­tor­ney in Bal­ti­more, Mil­ton B. Allen, lost the 1974 Demo­cratic pri­mary to chal­lenger Wil­liam A. Swisher in an up­set that sur­prised many in the black com­mu­nity.

Allen launched a write-in cam­paign that gar­nered more than 50,000 votes, but lost by about 20,000 votes to Swisher.

The next year, Nor­man V.A. Reeves, a high school prin­ci­pal, re­ceived more than 6,000 write-in votes in a los­ing ef­fort for a City Coun­cil seat.

Reeves lost in the pri­mary af­ter his op­po­nents reg­is­tered an un­em­ployed truck driver whose last name was also Reeves to con­fuse vot­ers. Nor­man Reeves won a coun­cil seat in the next election cy­cle.

“Write-in cam­paigns have been suc­cess­ful else­where,” said Has­san Gior­dano, a Dixon sup­porter. “If any­body can do it here, “Peo­ple have been en­cour­ag­ing me” to file as a write-in can­di­date, said Sheila Dixon, shown at a fo­rum in March. “Peo­ple are not happy about what hap­pened in the pri­mary election.” it’s Sheila.”

Mileah Kromer, di­rec­tor of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Pol­i­tics Cen­ter at Goucher Col­lege, said Dixon would be in a stronger po­si­tion than a typ­i­cal write-in can­di­date. She knows how to run a cam­paign, Kromer said, and has wide­spread name recog­ni­tion in Bal­ti­more.

But Kromer said Pugh will ben­e­fit from the in­creased turnout be­cause of the pres­i­den­tial race be­tween Demo­crat Hil­lary Clinton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, and the ad­van­tage of hav­ing her name on the bal­lot. She said many Democrats in deep-blue Bal­ti­more will likely vote for the en­tire slate of Democrats on the bal­lot.

Beyond that, she said, the vot­ers al­ready have spo­ken.

“What has fun­da­men­tally changed be­tween April and now that makes us think the out­come would be any dif­fer­ent?” Kromer asked. “In the ab­sence of any scan­dal, I’m left with the ques­tion: What makes this fea­si­ble?”

Af­ter spend­ing more than $1.2 mil­lion in the pri­mary cam­paign, Dixon has less than $5,000 left in her cam­paign ac­count less than a month be­fore the Nov. 8 gen­eral election.

Pugh spent more than $2.4 mil­lion dur­ing the pri­mary election. She has about $300,000 in her cam­paign ac­count.

Pugh in re­cent months has formed a “unity ticket” with other Democrats and is us­ing her cam­paign headquarters as an of­fice for Democrats run­ning for City Coun­cil. Pugh de­clined to com­ment about Dixon’s write-in cam­paign.

Walden has more than $6,000 in cam­paign cash. Har­ris re­ported less than $1,000.

Walden said he saw Dixon and her sup­port­ers at the fes­ti­val in Pig­town.

“They were out in force,” the Repub­li­can said. “This didn’t sur­prise me in the slight­est. She has been chaf­ing over the re­sult of the pri­mary ever since it oc­curred. She is con­vinced she won.”

Walden said he be­lieves Dixon’s en­try into the race will help him, be­cause he thinks she will pull votes from Pugh.

“If Sheila joins the race and splits the Demo­cratic vote, all bets are off,” Walden said.

Har­ris said he hopes city vot­ers look to new op­tions with new ideas.

“If we’re se­ri­ous about tran­si­tion­ing Bal­ti­more for the 21st cen­tury, we have to in­vest in new lead­er­ship and pass the torch,” Har­ris said. “It’s com­mend­able that she wants to run a write-in cam­paign. It’s an up­hill bat­tle. But I don’t know if it’s the most ef­fec­tive thing for the city right now.”

In Bal­ti­more, reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans about 10-to-1. Democrats out­num­ber Greens about 300-to-1.

Dixon was mayor from 2007 to 2010. She re­signed af­ter en­ter­ing an Al­ford plea to a charge of per­jury. She thereby main­tained her in­no­cence while ac­knowl­edg­ing pros­e­cu­tors had enough ev­i­dence to con­vict her of fail­ing to dis­close gifts from her then­boyfriend, Ron­ald H. Lip­scomb, a de­vel­oper who ben­e­fited from city tax breaks and con­tracts.

In a re­lated case, a city jury found Dixon guilty of em­bez­zling $500 worth of re­tail gift cards in­tended for the needy. She was ac­quit­ted of other charges.

Dixon has apol­o­gized but has ar­gued that her vi­o­la­tions were more about pa­per­work is­sues than a moral fail­ing.

Dur­ing the pri­mary election, Dixon ar­gued that her suc­cesses in of­fice should out­shine her crim­i­nal case.

She pointed to her move to end for­mer Mayor Martin O’Mal­ley’s prac­tice of “zero tol­er­ance” polic­ing and shift to a tar­geted en­force­ment strat­egy. She hired a new po­lice com­mis­sioner, Fred­er­ick H. Beale­feld III, and saw homi­cides drop to a 20-year low. She in­tro­duced an easy-to-use re­cy­cling pro­gram and cre­ated the Charm City Cir­cu­la­tor bus sys­tem.

With Dixon as mayor, the city sued bank­ing gi­ant Wells Fargo for al­legedly sin­gling out black res­i­dents for high­in­ter­est sub­prime mort­gages, lead­ing to fore­clo­sures and va­cant prop­er­ties.

Dur­ing the pri­mary election, Dixon cam­paigned on tar­get­ing gun of­fend­ers to re­duce crime, in­sti­tut­ing a $15-an-hour min­i­mum wage in the city and speed­ing up de­mo­li­tion of va­cant prop­er­ties.

Pugh has em­pha­sized plans to as­sume may­oral con­trol of the city’s schools, break up hous­ing op­er­a­tions into two agen­cies, and put civil­ians on the trial boards that de­cide dis­ci­plinary ac­tions against po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of mis­con­duct.

Walden says Bal­ti­more needs a mayor who em­pha­sizes the pos­i­tive things go­ing on in the city. He pro­poses build­ing a light rail line on North Av­enue and ex­pand­ing rail lines else­where.

Har­ris has pro­posed cre­at­ing a pub­lic bank in Bal­ti­more, at­tract­ing “clean en­ergy” man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs and re­fus­ing to grant cor­po­rate sub­si­dies for busi­nesses that don’t ben­e­fit poor res­i­dents. He says he wants to “trans­form a blue-col­lar town to a green-col­lar town.”

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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