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If This Is a General Election, Then These Are Endorsements

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We’re running out of ways to be upbeat about this. Election cycle after election cycle, City Paper trots out its coverage of the various races, and as the primary approaches, we (lately, I) field best guesses at endorsements for the candidates judged most likely to make some positive progress in this struggling city of ours. Sometimes the options aren’t that thrilling, but whether any of us like it or not, these people will be making decisions on our behalf. Many of those decisions don’t add up to much; others affect the shape of our city and the lives of its citizens for decades to come. So, you know, each Baltimorean who can exercise his or her franchise has a stake in that, as do our kids, and we all have a stake in everybody else’s stake, if you see where we’re going with this. While it doesn’t hurt our feelings or anything if you don’t vote for City Paper-approved candidates, that the majority of our fellow eligible Baltimoreans usually don’t vote at all kinda boggles our minds.

And then this fall’s primary, wow. Voter turnout just barely broke 20 percent. If you’re so un-civic-minded that you have no frame of reference for that number, it’s pathetic. That said, the few of you who did participate put up more resistance than usual to the status quo: Beleaguered incumbent City Councilmember Belinda Conaway (D) was beaten by challenger Nick Mosby (whom City Paper endorsed). And while every other incumbent city pol up for re-election won his or her primary, 13th District candidate/City Paper endorsee Shannon Sneed came within 43 votes—little more than the likely population of one square city block—of defeating one-term incumbent City Councilmember Warren Branch (D), illustrating that not every serving public servant in this incumbent-friendly city is invulnerable.

Sneed is running as an official write-in candidate against Branch in the Nov. 8 general election (Conaway has listed herself as an official write-in against Mosby too). In addition to such outsider challenges, the slate of victors in the Democratic primary face a range of challengers, including members of the city’s Republican, Libertarian, and Green parties (“Considering the Alternatives,” Feature, Oct. 26). Many such third-party candidacies (second-party in Baltimore City, really) are but token resistance. Not that the candidates aren’t well meaning, but they often seem to expend effort and creative capital only as judged against their chances of prevailing, which have been slim to none over the past 40 years. Given the stasis evident in the city’s politics and governance, more attractive options past the primary would be welcome, regardless of party or ballot status. In most cases that’s not the case.

And so, much of the following list of endorsements is just that—a list. Where there’s a case to be made for a better option than voting for the Democratic incumbent—or staying home—look for a brief attempt at making it.

And for god’s sake, people, you’ve got to get more serious about this voting thing. Baltimore is, in large part, the city we make it, and we make it what it is by voting. Or by staying home, if that’s your choice. Look around today at your neighborhood, and the next neighborhood over, and ask yourself which approach has gotten better results of late.

Mayor: incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D)

City Council President: incumbent Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D)

1st District City Council: incumbent James Kraft (D)

2nd District City Council: Brandon Scott (D)

3rd District City Council: Bill Barry (G)

Incumbent Robert Curran is an estimable politician, and one with a demonstrated value to his district (boosting Harford Road redevelopment) and the city (reworking the city’s animal-welfare code). If he had not told City Paper in 2007 that if re-elected he would not seek re-election this time around, he might find his name above. But the 3rd is Bill Barry’s district, and Barry represents the sort of question-asking wild card the Council could use. The director of labor studies at the Community College of Baltimore County, Barry not so surprisingly supports strong unions for teachers and other labor-related standbys. Many of his positions (find them at citizensforbillbarry.org) are light on detail, but if he were to spend four years questioning the sort of sweetheart tax deals commonly doled out to goose development, it most likely wouldn’t be four years wasted.

4th District City Council: incumbent Bill Henry (D)

5th District City Council: incumbent Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (D)

6th District City Council: incumbent Sharon Green Middleton (D)

7th District City Council: Nick Mosby (D)

8th District City Council: incumbent Helen Holton (D)

9th District City Council: Michael Eugene Johnson (D, write-in)

Johnson, whom City Paper endorsed in the primary, is an official write-in challenging William “Pistol Pete” Welch, the appointed incumbent. Voters in the 9th have been electing folks with the last name Welch for decades, and Johnson (facebook.com/mikegojohnson) came in fifth in the primary, but he represents a change from the same old same-old, if anyone on the west side happens to be looking for that.

10th District City Council: incumbent Edward Reisinger

11th District City Council: incumbent William Cole

12th District City Council: Kent Boles Jr. (R)

Appointed incumbent Carl Stokes has a long and storied career in Baltimore politics, and is no stranger to City Paper endorsements either. But his history of hopping in and out of this race (first running for mayor* and then refiling for his current seat just before the deadline, in a clearly calculated move to keep his butt in a Council chair) is but the latest in a long string of somewhat minor political foibles that nonetheless indicate it’s probably time for less cynical, more focused representation. Local attorney Kent Boles Jr. is a Republican, but a Republican more in the Baltimore City mode (i.e., socially moderate, pro-business without being an utter swine about it), and his platform (find it at bolesforbaltimore.com) hints that he could serve as a much-needed counterweight on the Council in the unlikely event he were elected. He spells the city schools’ CEO’s last name “Alonzo” on his site, but nobody’s perfect.

13th District City Council: Shannon Sneed (D, write-in)

Appointed incumbent City Councilmember Warren Branch beat City Paper-endorsed TV newsperson Shannon Sneed by just 43 votes (1,776 to 1,733). If all the 13th District voters who voted for fifth/last-place finisher Gamaliel Harris Jr. (69) switched their allegiance to Sneed, she could have it in the bag. Third-place finisher Antonio Glover, who garnered 693 votes, has thrown his support behind Sneed’s write-in campaign. Write-in campaigns are rarely successful, and voter turnout in city general elections tends to be even lower than in the primaries, but Sneed nonetheless stands as the best shot at another new voice on the Council and an antidote to the lackluster Branch, and City Paper hopes she makes it.

14th District City Council: incumbent Mary Pat Clarke (D)

* Correction: The initial version of this story incorrectly stated that Carl Stokes had filed to run for City Council president. City Paper regrets the error.

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