Pugh cruises to easy vic­tory

Demo­crat fends off write-in cam­paign by for­mer mayor Dixon

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS ELECTION 2016 - By Luke Broad­wa­ter and Yvonne Wenger Bal­ti­more Sun re­porters Ian Dun­can and Ali­son Kneze­vich con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

State Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh was elected Bal­ti­more’s mayor by an over­whelm­ing mar­gin Tues­day. The Demo­crat will lead a city that is en­joy­ing a devel­op­ment boom in some ar­eas but suf­fer­ing from a shock­ing level of vi­o­lence and per­sis­tent poverty in oth­ers.

Pugh beat back a spir­ited write-in chal­lenge from Sheila Dixon, the for­mer mayor who fin­ished a close sec­ond in April’s Demo­cratic pri­mary. In a city where most vot­ers are Democrats, Pugh eas­ily out­dis­tanced Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris and Repub­li­can Alan Walden.

Pugh cap­tured a ma­jor­ity of votes in Bal­ti­more, but tens of thou­sands chose to write in Dixon’s name.

Pugh will be­come the 50th mayor of Bal­ti­more and the third con­sec­u­tive woman elected to the job. She will be un­der pres­sure right away to unite the city and fix its sys­temic prob­lems, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and res­i­dents said.

At the down­town Radis­son Ho­tel on Tues­day evening, Pugh de­clared vic­tory as she ad­dressed sup­port­ers. She was in­tro­duced by Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings and sur­rounded by other Democrats from around the re­gion.

“We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make this the great­est city in Amer­ica,” she said. “And I’m telling you I will work day and night on be­half of all the cit­i­zens of this city, but I need you to work with me.”

Dixon ad­dressed sup­port­ers shortly af­ter the first of­fi­cial re­sults were posted Tues­day evening. They showed all write-in can­di­dates trail­ing far be­hind Pugh, but Dixon de­clined to con­cede.

“I am not go­ing to stop un­til I see ev­ery vote that’s been counted,” Dixon said. The for­mer mayor said that what­ever hap­pens, her sup­port­ers made a dif­fer­ence by help­ing her run the last-ditch write-in cam­paign.

“You can’t just look at the vote, you have to look at the en­ergy you felt in the com­mu­ni­ties,” Dixon said.

Pugh will go to work with a new-look City Coun­cil. Eight new mem­bers were elected Tues­day, and they’ve promised to push a more pro­gres­sive agenda than their pre­de­ces­sors.

Among Pugh’s early chal­lenges will be unit­ing the city, said Roger E. Hart­ley, dean of the Uni­ver­sity of Bal­ti­more’s Col­lege of Pub­lic Af­fairs.

“There must be a knit­ting to­gether of dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies; that’s go­ing to be the big job of the new mayor,” Hart­ley said. “Right now, there ap­pears to be a frac­ture: the In­ner Har­bor ver­sus the rest of the city, and that has to be healed re­ally quickly.”

Charles D. El­li­son, host of “The El­li­son Re­port” on WEAA ra­dio, agreed. “She will have to hit the ground run­ning, re­as­sur­ing the more dispir­ited or jaded folks in the city, par­tic­u­larly in the dis­tressed ar­eas of Bal­ti­more, that she is there for them and she will fun­da­men­tally change the sta­tus quo, po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally,” El­li­son said.

El­li­son said Pugh also must col­lab­o­rate with res­i­dents to cul­ti­vate the cre­ation of more jobs, draw in­vest­ment in mass tran­sit and fill va­cant houses with­out gen­tri­fy­ing neigh­bor­hoods.

“Peo­ple are re­ally hop­ing Pugh is go­ing to be a lot more cre­ative and in­no­va­tive as far as eco­nomic growth strate­gies, and that she will find ways to en­er­gize de­pressed ar­eas,” he said. State Sen. Cather­ine Pugh, flanked by Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings, left, and Bal­ti­more City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Bernard C. “Jack” Young, cel­e­brates af­ter an­nounc­ing that she had been elected mayor. She is the third con­sec­u­tive woman to oc­cupy the of­fice. For­mer Mayor Sheila Dixon, right, greets sup­porter Arlisa An­der­son at the Oxy­gen Lounge. Dixon de­clined to con­cede the elec­tion Tues­day.

Vot­ers in­ter­viewed at polls through­out the city said they want the next mayor to ad­dress crime in Bal­ti­more. Last year saw a his­toric spike in homi­cides. This year, the city is on pace to see nearly 1,000 shoot­ings.

While most said they don’t want a re­turn to the zero-tol­er­ance polic­ing poli­cies of for­mer Mayor Martin O’Mal­ley, they want a so­lu­tion to out-of-con­trol crime.

“The big­gest thing is pub­lic safety,” said Ralph Wil­liams, pres­i­dent of the Ash­bur­tonEast Ar­ling­ton Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion. “We col­lec­tively ex­pect a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“Def­i­nitely, we don’t want to go back to zero-tol­er­ance be­cause that af­fected ev­ery­one — even pro­fes­sional African-Amer­i­can men like my­self. But I think she could lever­age her state con­nec­tions to make some changes.”

Sharon Brad­ford, pres­i­dent of the For­est Park Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion, agreed that pub­lic safety is the big­gest con­cern.

“With a new ad­min­is­tra­tion com­ing in, they have to put a plan in place for cleaner streets and safer streets. If we can have them tackle that, that’s half the bat­tle,” Brad­ford said of Pugh. “She will give the city a fresh, new start.”

Many also ex­pect her to ad­dress the en­trenched poverty in some parts of Bal­ti­more — a prob­lem that fu­els the vi­o­lent drug trade.

Through­out her cam­paign, Pugh has Repub­li­can can­di­date Alan Walden ar­rives at Western High School on Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane to vote Tues­day. Also run­ning was Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris. pushed plans she says will re­form what’s wrong with Bal­ti­more. She wants to as­sume may­oral con­trol of the city’s pub­lic schools, break up the city’s hous­ing op­er­a­tions into two agen­cies, and put civil­ians on trial boards that de­cide dis­ci­plinary ac­tions for po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of mis­con­duct.

She has said she wants to build on cur­rent Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake’s suc­cesses, in­clud­ing halt­ing the pop­u­la­tion loss in Bal­ti­more and pre­sid­ing over an econ­omy that added thou­sands of jobs. Pugh said she’s talked with Rawl­ings-Blake about “want­ing the next mayor to be bet­ter than the mayor you suc­ceed — that’s what ev­ery mayor should want.” Rawl­ings-Blake did not run for re-elec­tion.

Pugh has as­sem­bled a tran­si­tion team that in­cludes for­mer Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Jim Smith, Del. Pete Ham­men, and for­mer city schools in­terim CEO Tisha Edwards. She has also con­sulted with for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about anti-crime strate­gies.

But Pugh also be­lieves some of Bal­ti­more’s prob­lems are psy­cho­log­i­cal. Too many Bal­ti­more­ans fo­cus on the neg­a­tive as­pects of the city, she said, in­stead of on Bal­ti­more’s many pos­i­tive at­tributes.

“It’s im­por­tant that peo­ple get a pos­i­tive mes­sage and feel great about their city,” Pugh said. “The glass is half-full as op­posed to half-empty.”

She will bring a wide ar­ray of ex­pe­ri­ences to the mayor’s of­fice. She helped found the Bal­ti­more De­sign School and the Bal­ti­more Run­ning Fes­ti­val. She has been a banker, a jour­nal­ist, a small-busi­ness owner and a col­lege dean. Pugh said she had to pay a sig­nage fee for her con­sign­ment shop in Pig­town three times be­cause of the city’s er­rors.

But Tara Pri­ester, 46, of North­east Bal­ti­more’s Hamil­ton neigh­bor­hood said she’s con­cerned about the low pro­file Pugh kept dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign. Pri­ester said Pugh seemed to dis­ap­pear af­ter the pri­mary. She was wor­ried she’d do the same af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion, so she wrote in Dixon’s name.

“Af­ter the pri­mary you never saw her,” said Pri­ester, who just opened an el­der care busi­ness. “You didn’t see her again un­til Sheila came back and was fight­ing for her right to have an­other op­por­tu­nity. It was ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing.”

Before the pri­mary, Pri­ester said, she liked Pugh and her ideas.

“I liked ev­ery­thing she stood for, but it was like she was miss­ing in ac­tion af­ter she felt like she got the vote,” she said. “If that’s what you’re do­ing af­ter the pri­mary, what will you do when you get into of­fice? Are you go­ing to dis­ap­pear then? Or are you go­ing to put your ten­nis shoes on, and hit the streets and be there for us? “

Ed­wina Har­lee, 33, also wrote in Dixon’s name. She said Dixon was a good mayor, and de­spite be­ing forced from of­fice amid a state em­bez­zle­ment prose­cu­tion, she de­served an­other chance.

“I want to put peo­ple in power that are go­ing to care about our chil­dren the way I do,” Har­lee said.

In con­trast, some Pugh vot­ers said she’s more en­gaged than oth­ers may be­lieve. Rod­ney Jack­son, 58, hugged Pugh out­side Gwynns Falls El­e­men­tary School af­ter vot­ing for her.

“She’s a peo­ple per­son,” he said. “She’s out here.”

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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