“Every moment that I spend planning for a campaign or re-election was time that I was taking away from my current responsibilities to the city, to the city that I love,” Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said this morning in announcing her withdrawal from the 2016 mayoral race. Blake became mayor in the aftermath of scandal, and leaves in much the same manner. Just days after shepherding a $6.4 million settlement through Baltimore’s city government, Rawlings-Blake has had enough of politics — for good, it seems:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, beleaguered by the death of Freddie Gray and the protests and rioting that followed, will announce at 10 a.m. today that she won’t seek re-election, The Baltimore Sun has learned.
Rawlings-Blake, 45, wants to focus on preparing the city for the upcoming trials of the six city police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, sources close to the mayor say. She briefed her Cabinet and staff this morning, and has no plans to seek another office.
That wasn’t always the case. Rawlings-Blake had put quite a bit of money and effort into a re-election campaign, conducting fundraisers and meet-and-greets, but a plethora of other high-profile Democrats challenging her may have changed her mind about asking Baltimore voters for another chance:
The mayor abandons her re-election campaign amid a growing field of Democratic challengers in the April primary, including former Mayor Sheila Dixon, state Sen. Catherine Pugh and City Councilman Carl Stokes.
She spent recent months ramping up her campaign by building a field organization in the city, hosting fundraisers and courting voters with events such as “Mondays with the Mayor” at local bars and restaurants.
Let’s face it — Rawlings-Blake was left without much of a constituency in this race. The death of Freddie Gray enraged black voters, and Rawlings-Blake’s handling of the aftermath angered everyone else, too. The rise in violence in the riots and afterward had everyone concerned about her abrupt changes in policing policies, and her response was considered too passive by half in any direction anyway. A few “Mondays with the Mayor” would not have changed that image, even with the impressively quick settlement ahead of the trials.
Those will be another problem for Rawlings-Blake. It will be difficult to get convictions, although certainly not impossible, and any failure will reflect back on her administration. If violence erupts after the verdicts, she’ll be on the hot seat again, and if it doesn’t, she probably won’t get the credit. Even a successful prosecution won’t benefit the mayor; it will benefit the prosecutor, who has her own political ambitions, and it will likely create even more controversy.
Baltimore will want a fresh start, and for good reason even apart from any shortcomings Rawlings-Blake may have. She needs a fresh start, too, and a break from politics is probably a wise decision. She’s right about needing to eliminate campaign politics from the necessary actions over the next year in resolving the remaining issues from the Freddie Gray case, and to the extent that she’s sincere about that as a reason, kudos for her in choosing that path.
UPDATE: (Jazz) I had to take a break from my day off to chime in on this breaking news. The Mayor’s decision is less than the outright resignation which I think was called for, but it does show a modicum of good sense. (Or at least a recognition of political reality) This adds another layer of irony to the fact that less than three months ago Rawlings-Blake was named as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors for her, er… outstanding performance. She’s spent a fair amount of time traveling in support of that particular honor… at least when she wasn’t trying to douse the fires in her city and giving every indication of railroading her police force. I do have to wonder if the USCoM will put a little more thought into naming her replacement.
Speaking of which, is there any chance that Baltimore might but some additional thought into selecting their next mayor as well? Her Honor’s predecessor was run out of office after being convicted on fairly serious corruption charges and the policies of the current administration haven’t done much more to improve the city’s prospects. Thus far it sounds like the same group of Democrats from which she arose are drawing straws to see who will win the Democrat primary with no thought of a Republican actually taking charge. How’s that been working out for you? Will they really vote to have essentially four more years of the same or might the shattered urban landscape have them thinking of taking things in a new direction?
Naw… never happen.