BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Friday that she will not seek re-election next year, nearly five months after the city erupted in rioting following the death of a man injured in police custody.
Rawlings-Blake made the announcement Friday at a news conference called only 90 minutes earlier, a move that comes just days after officials said the city would pay Freddie Gray's family $6.4 million to settle civil claims over his spinal injury.
The mayor said she believes she could have won re-election, pointing to her work on the city's budget and pension system. However, she said, not seeking re-election was the best decision for the city and for her family. Among other things, she said the city needed to get through the trials of the six police officers charged in Gray's death.
"It was a very difficult decision, but I knew I needed to spend time focused on the city's future, not my own," she said.
When asked if she had effectively made herself a lame duck, Rawlings-Blake said that was not the case and that she was now focused on working for the city. She said she did not want every decision she made over the next 15 months to be evaluated in the context of a political campaign.
"I'm focused right now on governing, rather than campaigning for mayor at this critical time in our history," she said.
The Democrat assumed office in 2010 after her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, was convicted of embezzling gift cards for needy families and pleaded in a separate case for lying about gifts from her developer ex-boyfriend. Rawlings-Blake won the 2011 Democratic primary with about 52 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic city.
Some questioned her readiness to lead the city at first, but she won praise for her handling of snowstorms and budget gaps. That praise turned to criticism as many blasted her handling of the unrest following Gray's death.
In July, she fired Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and appointed one of his deputies in the interim.
Several people, including Dixon, have announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the April 26 primary. The general election is often seen as a formality in the heavily Democratic city, which hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1967. The city recently shifted its election cycle to bring it in sync with the state and federal election cycle to attract more voters.