Black Lives Matter Activist Enters Baltimore Mayoral Race

Matt Vespa
|
Posted: Feb 04, 2016 2:35 PM
Black Lives Matter Activist Enters Baltimore Mayoral Race

A Black Lives Matter activist could become the next mayor of Baltimore. DeRay McKesson filed his election papers almost at the last minute for the Feb. 3 deadline last night at 8:50 p.m. - 9 p.m. was the cutoff. He enters a very crowded primary; with 10+ candidates vying for the top spot in the city after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced she was not running for re-election (via WaPo):

Because Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city, Baltimore’s April 26 primary is expected to determine who replaces Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the once-rising star in national Democratic politics who announced last year that she would not seek reelection.

“Baltimore is at a moment,” Mckesson, who becomes the first of the prominent post-Ferguson activists to seek public office, said in a phone interview on Wednesday night. “I’m running to usher Baltimore into a new era where our government is accountable to its people and aggressively innovative in how it identifies and solves problems

[…]

Mckesson, 30, joins a crowded field that includes former mayor Sheila Dixon, who is leading in the polls, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, and city councilmen Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby as well as 10 other Democratic candidates.

The election comes at a time when Baltimore serves as one of the primary anecdotes in the national conversation about the overlay of race, inequality, and inner-city public policy. A poll conducted late last year by The Baltimore Sun found that 58 percent of city primary voters believe the city is “on the wrong track.”

The Post added that McKesson has become the go-to person regarding the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability after a series of fatalities at the hands of police launched the Black Lives Matter movement, the most highly publicized incident occurring in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014. Former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in self-defense, but a series of erroneous reports made that Brown had his hands up set off a firestorm of rioting and looting that virtually destroyed the city.

The decision to runoff mayor occurred in January at the Charles Fish Building:

The four-hour policy meeting — attended by a Washington Post reporter on the condition that details of the gathering would not be reported until after Mckesson made his final decision on whether he would enter the race — was a free-for-all, in which a dozen participants reviewed data on education, housing, and criminal justice.

“The question is,” Mckesson asked to the assembled advisers, “what is the world we want to live in? What does that world look like?”

In attendance were Johnetta Elzie and Samuel Sinyangwe, two activists who, with Mckesson, run Campaign Zero (the fourth partner, Brittany Packnett, joined the meeting via conference call); Donnie O’Callaghan, an education policy analyst and Mckesson’s best friend, and several city officials who knew Mckesson from his time working for the school district and his prior nonprofit and community organizing work.

Attendees went line-by-line through the platforms of Dixon and Mosby — at the time the only candidates with published mayoral proposals — with Mckesson marking what the group determined were strengths and weakness of each proposal on large pieces of poster paper taped to the wall.

[…]

Mckesson would be the first political outsider elected to the corner office of Baltimore City Hall in modern history. In the last 50 years, voters in Baltimore have only once elected a mayor who was not a sitting city councilor — Kurt Schmoke, the city’s first elected black mayor, who was serving as Baltimore’s State’s Attorney when he was elected in 1987.

The city remains on edge, given that the trials for the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray are ongoing. In that case, which occurred in April of 2015, Freddie Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while being transported in a police van. Like Ferguson, his death sent Baltimore into anarchy, prompting Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency and to deploy of the National Guard to restore order. Since then, the police commissioner for the city was fired, the police have retreated from doing their jobs, and the officers involved in Gray's arrest have been indicted on charges ranging from misconduct to second-degree murder. The city also had 344 homicides, which almost broke the 1993 record of 353. With things going so bad, no wonder why the mayoral race is chock full of candidates–the city is a nightmare.