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Mayhem and Malaise in Baltimore for Hot Mail-In Mayoral Race

Running for mayor in a city wracked by violence and dysfunction, to say nothing of late-arriving ballots for a vote being conducted primarily by mail, three candidates — none of them the incumbent — are running even in the race.

BALTIMORE (CN) — Running for mayor in a city wracked by violence and dysfunction, to say nothing of late-arriving ballots for a vote being conducted primarily by mail, three candidates — none of them the incumbent — are running even in the race.

One is an admitted thief who left the office in disgrace a decade ago. One is a former Treasury official under President Obama who has never held elective office.

And polling in third place, according a poll last week as vote-by-mail got underway, is City Council President Brandon Scott, who has the Baltimore Sun’s endorsement.

Scott, former Mayor Sheila Dixon and former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller were polling in the high teens and within the poll’s margin of error.

“The way the candidates are bunched up, it will only take about 25% of the vote will win, and whoever wins the primary will win the general,” said John Dedie, a professor of political science at the Community College of Baltimore County. “I think it’s going to be a two-way between Scott and Miller, because Sheila's ceiling is 22%.”

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who took over after former Mayor Catherine Pugh left office in scandal last year, was polling far behind, in sixth place. 

Baltimore City Hall, still closed for most business as Maryland, began to reopen Thursday, May 28, for the primary election that will be conducted primarily via mail. (Courthouse News photo/Edward Ericson Jr.)

There are 24 candidates in the June 2 Democratic primary race, whose winner is expected to easily win the November general election in the city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 10-1. 

Fed up with the city standard of crime, misconduct and incompetence, many voters are staying away. “You have to swim through an ocean of corruption,” said Allen Savage, 57, an audio engineer and consultant, explaining his decision to forego mailing in his ballot. “What sense does it make to have a government the citizens have no control over?”

Savage spent months in 2017 fighting high water bills at his home, ending up on a payment plan. Dodgy billing plagued the city’s water works for over a decade before the city suffered a malware ransom attack last year that paralyzed its aging and unkempt computer systems — some residents complain they haven’t got a water bill in months and, as the Sun reported, some lucky (wealthy) folks never got one at all.

While in some ways signs of decay predate the Covid-19 crisis, in others they have been worsened.

New census totals show that Baltimore’s population dropped below 600,000 for the first time in a century. Tax receipts are down amid business shutdowns, and the city faces a budget deficit of more than $100 million.

Two weeks ago, one prominent local economist called for the city to merge with Baltimore County.

During the pandemic, crime is down nominally, but Baltimore has been reeling for five years under a murder rate that’s comparable to war zones. More than 300 people are violently killed every year, while the police department, hemorrhaging experienced officers even in relatively good times, has been hollowed out under a succession of short-time commissioners — one of whom went to prison for tax evasion.

An elite squad of city police robbed drug dealers and sold drugs for at least half a decade before the FBI charged them in 2018, and a federal civil rights consent decree has sapped administrative time and attention while street corner drug crews expand and clash, killing and maiming one another’s membership (and witnesses) in an endless cycle of retaliation.

Nine people were murdered over Memorial Day weekend.

An officer was shot on Tuesday night while chasing a suspect, who escaped by carjacking a bystander.

“The level of violence on our streets is completely unacceptable and won’t be tolerated,” Mayor Young wrote Tuesday in a late-night press release.

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