Dixon launches write-in ef­fort

She ques­tions re­sults of pri­mary, which Pugh won

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Luke Broad­wa­ter lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twitter.com/luke­broad­wa­ter

For­mer Bal­ti­more Mayor Sheila Dixon reg­is­tered as a write-in can­di­date for mayor Tues­day, set­ting up an un­con­ven­tional gen­eral elec­tion re­match with her Demo­cratic pri­mary op­po­nent, state Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh.

Flanked by sup­port­ers, Dixon told more than a dozen re­porters gath­ered at the Bal­ti­more Board of Elec­tions that it wasn’t clear she ac­tu­ally lost April’s hard-fought pri­mary to Pugh. Dixon and sup­port­ers cited ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dur­ing the pri­mary elec­tion. They in­cluded 1,650 bal­lots that state of­fi­cials found were han­dled im­prop­erly and eight data files that were miss­ing for about a day after the elec­tion.

“The ques­tion is, ‘Did I re­ally lose the pri­mary?’ ” Dixon asked.

“No!” her sup­port­ers shouted, be­fore chant­ing: “Bal­ti­more wants their mayor back!”

Dixon’s en­try into the field is ex­pected to in­vig­o­rate what had been a “rather sleepy” gen­eral elec­tion race for mayor of Bal­ti­more, said Matthew Cren­son, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity.

Pugh has been run­ning against Repub­li­can Alan Walden and Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris. In Bal­ti­more, reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans about 10-1. Democrats out­num­ber Greens about 300-1.

“It might be a good idea to in­tro­duce more com­pe­ti­tion into the gen­eral elec­tion,” Cren­son said. “But the chances that Sheila Dixon will win with a write-in cam­paign are very small. She started too late and she doesn’t have enough money.”

Dixon — Bal­ti­more’s first fe­male mayor — ac­knowl­edged Tues­day that she faces an “up­hill bat­tle” in at­tempt­ing to win a write-in cam­paign. Sev­eral Democrats who sup­ported her dur­ing the pri­mary have joined Pugh’s “unity ticket” for the gen­eral elec­tion.

“Will I be able to raise money? I don’t know,” said Dixon, adding that she planned to em­bark on an ag­gres­sive cam­paign that in­cludes fundrais­ing. “This is not go­ing to be a tra­di­tional cam­paign. ... I have a short win­dow. I am in­tend­ing to raise money. Eighty per­cent of the funds that I raised [dur­ing the pri­mary] were grass­roots.”

Dixon ar­gued that the city is in a dire sit­u­a­tion with a record-high homi­cide rate last year and that she has the ex­pe­ri­ence to bring down mur­ders — point­ing to a crime re­duc­tion dur­ing her ten­ure as mayor.

“The ac­cep­tance of 300 or more homi­cides a year is un­ac­cept­able,” Dixon said. “I can fix City Hall. Day One I will get it mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Fara­jii Muham­mad, co-host of “The Larry Young Morn­ing Show” on WOLB ra­dio, said he thinks Dixon’s write-in cam­paign shows grit. He ar­gued that Dixon’s grass­roots sup­port re­mains strong.

“Sheila Dixon is the X-Fac­tor in this city,” Muham­mad said. “If there was a clean fight in terms of how the pri­mary ended up, then OK. But there were so many ques­tions sur­round­ing that. ... With for­mer mayor Dixon, her sup­port is more grass­roots, more or­ganic. Sen­a­tor Pugh is now seen as more of an es­tab­lish­ment can­di­date.”

Scherod Barnes, chair­man of the Bal­ti­more City Demo­cratic State Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, said the party is firmly be­hind Pugh be­cause she won that pri­mary elec­tion.

But, he added, the or­ga­ni­za­tion rec­og­nizes Dixon’s right to run a write-in cam­paign.

“We don’t have a prob­lem with it if that’s what she wants to do,” Barnes said. “The Cen­tral Com­mit­tee is sup­port­ing Cather­ine Pugh be­cause we sup­port the nominee of the Demo­cratic Party.”

Some Pugh sup­port­ers said Dixon should ac­cept the fact she lost in the pri­mary and move on.

State Sen. Bill Fer­gu­son, who backs Pugh, ar­gued that Dixon should be work­ing with Pugh now in­stead of against her.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed that for­mer Mayor Dixon is tak­ing this ap­proach in­stead of work­ing with Sen­a­tor Pugh to bring our city to­gether and solve the deep chal­lenges ahead of us,” Fer­gu­son said. “While I un­der­stand for­mer Mayor Dixon is likely dis­ap­pointed with the pri­mary re­sults, this is the wrong ap­proach. Now is the time for un­likely al­lies to join to­gether to build a new fu­ture to­gether.”

In ma­te­ri­als dis­trib­uted to re­porters Tues­day, Dixon’s cam­paign noted a writein cam­paign in Wash­ing­ton as ev­i­dence that such ef­forts can be successful. “I have never been the sta­tus quo,” Dixon said.

Dur­ing April’s Demo­cratic pri­mary, Dixon fin­ished sec­ond out of 13 can­di­dates, re­ceiv­ing votes from 46,301 Bal­ti­more­ans. Pugh won with 48,709 votes.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

For­mer Bal­ti­more City Mayor Sheila Dixon, cen­ter, an­nounces her gen­eral elec­tion write-in cam­paign for mayor Tues­day at the city’s Board of Elec­tions. Dixon was Bal­ti­more’s first fe­male mayor.

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