Seven Repub­li­cans want to be Bal­ti­more mayor

But the can­di­dates are run­ning de­cid­edly low-key cam­paigns

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Opilo

Catalina Byrd was out­num­bered, but that was noth­ing new.

In a city where nearly 80% of vot­ers are reg­is­tered Democrats, the Repub­li­can may­oral can­di­date is in the mi­nor­ity in Bal­ti­more. At one Fe­bru­ary fo­rum, she was also the lone GOP con­tender on stage as a sea of her Demo­cratic ri­vals duked it out among them­selves.

“If one of your fa­vorite Democrats doesn’t make it out, then you have an op­tion in Novem­ber,” Byrd said in her clos­ing re­marks to a crowd she knew was largely pop­u­lated by Democrats. “You don’t have to change your party.”

In deep blue Bal­ti­more, the drama of the may­oral race is planted firmly on the left. Demo­cratic can­di­dates have poured mil­lions of dol­lars into their races, lined up en­dorse­ments from party lead­ers and aimed their neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing at each other, as­sum­ing clutch­ing the nom­i­na­tion makes them the de facto win­ner of the Novem­ber elec­tion.

It’s a rea­son­ably safe as­sump­tion. A Repub­li­can has not been mayor of Bal­ti­more since Theodore McKeldin left of­fice in 1967.

Re­gard­less, on the other side of the po­lit­i­cal aisle, one Repub­li­can is about to be the GOP nom­i­nee, guar­an­tee­ing a spot on the Novem­ber bal­lot along­side the Demo­cratic vic­tor from the June 2 pri­mary.

That Repub­li­can, one of seven in the race, will se­cure the nod with vir­tu­ally no money spent. The GOP­can­di­dates have a col­lec­tive

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$400 on the books in cam­paign ac­counts. Five of the seven filed af­fi­davits pledg­ing to spend less than $1,000. Two oth­ers failed to file re­ports al­to­gether, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing late fees of about $800 each.

Byrd, one of the can­di­dates who owes late fees, is con­sid­ered the front-run­ner by the lim­ited num­ber of peo­ple who keep tabs on GOP pol­i­tics in Bal­ti­more. A past can­di­date for judge and mayor, she has a de­gree of name recog­ni­tion the oth­ers do not. A res­i­dent of Mid­town-Ed­mond­son in West Bal­ti­more, Byrd is a mem­ber of the city’s Women’s Com­mis­sion and the Com­mu­nity Over­sight Task Force, which over­sees im­ple­men­ta­tion of the fed­eral con­sent de­cree to re­form the city po­lice depart­ment.

The 39-year-old cam­paign con­sul­tant is run­ning on a plat­form that in­cludes loans to start small busi­nesses, the ex­pan­sion of recre­ation cen­ters, and tax breaks for teach­ers to live in Bal­ti­more.

If elected, she said she would make es­tab­lish­ing safe in­jec­tion sites in the city a pri­or­ity. Much has been said about Bal­ti­more’s crime prob­lem, but the rate of peo­ple dying from over­doses eclipses the homi­cide rate, she said.

“That’s the real cri­sis, not the crime cri­sis,” she said.

Byrd said she tried to file an af­fi­davit stat­ing she planned to raise no more than $1,000, but the state’s sys­tem didn’t work cor­rectly. She said she is wait­ing for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the State Board of Elec­tions to re­turn her calls and emails.

Run­ning against Byrd is Shan­non Wright, a 53-year-old pas­tor and for­mer first vice pres­i­dent of the Yonkers NAACP in New York. Wright moved to Bal­ti­more in 2013 and ran un­suc­cess­fully in 2016 for City Coun­cil pres­i­dent.

The big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing Bal­ti­more is the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, Wright said, and the lack of prepa­ra­tion on the part of city of­fi­cials.

“We have a lot of re­sources in this city with all the col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties,” she said. “We should really be a melt­ing pot of new ideas and in­no­va­tions, strate­gies and poli­cies, and I don’t see it.”

If elected, Wright, who de­scribes her­self as a Fred­er­ick Dou­glass Repub­li­can, said she would fo­cus on im­prov­ing pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships and re­pair­ing what she sees as a strained re­la­tion­ship be­tween city and state lead­ers.

Ivan Gon­za­lez, a 13-year vet­eran of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, has fo­cused on pub­lic safety is­sues dur­ing his bid for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Call­ing the crime plans of lead­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates “garbage,” Gon­za­lez said he would cre­ate an “army” of po­lice spe­cial op­er­a­tions teams to con­duct searches and get guns off the street.

Gon­za­lez said he would make for­mer Bal­ti­more Po­lice Lt. Stephen Nale­wa­jko the city’s po­lice com­mis­sioner and “get rid of” State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby. A mayor can nom­i­nate a po­lice com­mis­sioner, but the ap­point­ment needs the ap­proval of the City Coun­cil. Also, Mosby, a Demo­crat, is an elected of­fi­cial and does not serve at the plea­sure of the mayor.

Nale­wa­jko nar­rowly avoided be­ing charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in 1994 af­ter he was in­volved in a shoot­ing that re­sulted in the death of a man. A grand jury ini­tially rec­om­mended charges against Nale­wa­jko and of­fi­cer Lewis G. Yamin, but the next day re­versed it­self.

If elected, Gon­za­lez, 50, who works in the nar­cotics unit with an an­nual salary of about $80,000, said he would serve as mayor dur­ing the day and con­tinue his po­lice work at night pro bono.

“Af­ter 5 p.m., I’ll grab my god­damn po­lice-is­sued ri­fle. I’ll pair up with the com­mis­sioner who used to be a lieu­tenant, and I would get these guys my­self. That’s how you lead from the front.”

Gon­za­lez has not filed a cam­paign fi­nance re­port and owes more than $800 in fees. He said he has raised no money in the race, but has had dif­fi­culty get­ting the state’s cam­paign fi­nance fil­ing sys­tem to work.

Zulieka Baysmore, 61, a na­tive of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., who works in the insurance in­dus­try, would fo­cus on com­mu­nity devel­op­ment as mayor, ac­cord­ing to her cam­paign web­site, us­ing fed­eral hous­ing money to build more af­ford­able homes in the city with a goal of cre­at­ing 5,000 first-time home­own­ers.

Baysmore, a res­i­dent of Madi­son Park in West Bal­ti­more, said she plans to build 14 en­tre­pre­neur and man­u­fac­tur­ing hubs, one in each City Coun­cil dis­trict — a plan she said would cre­ate 2,000 jobs.

“If you de­velop it and start get­ting on top of the vi­o­lent crime here, they will come back,” Baysmore said of de­vel­op­ers dur­ing a GOP can­di­date fo­rum in Fe­bru­ary.

Collins Otonna, 58, an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for mayor in 2016, is now run­ning with the GOP and calls him­self a “lib­eral Repub­li­can” on his cam­paign web­site. Otonna pledged to work with the city’s youth if elected. He pro­posed a “per­for­mance debit card” for each city stu­dent, funded with $30 per week. Stu­dents would have to at­tend classes to re­tain the ben­e­fit, he said on the web­site.

David An­thony Wig­gins, 60, a can­di­date for sher­iff in 2014 and 2018, states on his cam­paign web­site that he would strengthen pro­grams that en­cour­age the shar­ing of ideas be­tween city lead­ers and Bal­ti­more’s re­search uni­ver­si­ties. Wig­gins, of Park­side in North­east Bal­ti­more, said he would op­pose new taxes on busi­nesses, which would cre­ate un­cer­tainty in Bal­ti­more’s eco­nomic cli­mate.

Wil­liam G. Herd, 67, of Wy­man Park in North Bal­ti­more will also be on the bal­lot. He could not be reached for com­ment.

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