Perhaps the biggest news story coming out of Baltimore in the last 24 hours is the last-minute entry of human rights activist Deray Mckesson into the race for Mayor of Baltimore. Deray joins an already crowded race of nearly 30 candidates (it’s a high number, but most of them never had any shot anyway) seeking to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is not running for re-election. The Baltimore Sun quickly reported his filing and reaction came in just as quickly.
The tone of response online was generally positive, especially from people outside of Baltimore. Among locals, sentiments ranged from surprise and increased interest in what’s now a much more fascinating campaign, to some less positive feelings, particularly as I understand it, among those who have been active locally as Deray has been active more on the national stage.
Also, quite a few folks were questioning whether Deray actually had fulfilled the residency requirement for running. The news generally shows him working and demonstrating in one place or another at any given time. The Baltimore Sun reported today, though, that he’s been living in North Baltimore for the last several months.
Regardless of any criticism, the race now will find itself under a larger national lens with Deray’s entry.
Hit The Ground Running
Anybody living in or from Baltimore knows that with so many voters registered Democrat in the City, that party’s primary usually determines the winner of the November general election. Deray is running as a Democrat, which puts him against the other dozen or so hopefuls, including former Mayor Sheila Dixon. That election is April 26, 81 days from now.
Eighty one days to overcome Sheila Dixon’s comfortable lead in the polls.
To put it in perspective, local businessman David Warnock is trailing badly, even as he’s loaned his campaign close to a million dollars. Whatever money Deray may be able to bring in to compliment his sizable online following, his chances will rest on convincing the probable 21% of current undecideds as well as a probably unknown number of unregistered voters to sign up, the latter before the April 5 deadline. As it stands right now, Ms. Dixon is leading in the key demo of older black women voters, people who are probably much more familiar with her than Mr. Mckesson, regardless of his larger national following.
Who’s on the Team?
Another interesting issue I saw being discussed is who’s on his team. The Sun and Guardian have both reported that fellow activist Johnetta Elzie (a powerhouse herself) is moving to Baltimore to work on his campaign. I can’t help but think the local activists I hear already weren’t happy, weren’t thrilled with another high profile activist —one who is definitely not from Baltimore— coming into their turf.
Don’t count out our provincial attitudes. Deray, who even mentioned growing up listening to Miss Tony on 92Q in his statement, has been a powerhouse nationally. But I’m sure he’ll still be painted as a carpetbagger, especially by people who have been working on issues locally, if his campaign starts with much more out-of-town support than local support.
For the record, I grew up listening to V-103 and then 92Q. Frank Ski.
Where is the Downtown money going?
People who know Baltimore solely from watching on TV or reading poverty porn might not get that Baltimore isn’t entirely poor. The segregated parts of Baltimore certainly are, but that doesn’t go for the City as a whole. The City is base to quite a few rich people. Outside folks have probably watched Peter Angelos’ Baltimore Orioles or worn clothing made by Kevin Plank’s Under Armour. But it’s the people most outsiders have never heard of who have the deep pockets that make things move in the Harbor City.
Regardless of how much he brings to the table (and so far, it’s a bunch), Deray’s running where there’s a huge machine in place. He’s not going to get far without fealty to, detente with, or a fight from Downtown developers (then again, neither would any of the other candidates). If they feel they’ll lose money or power from his being elected, expect a mess, regardless of how the elections turn out.
It’s going to be an interesting 81 days until the primary.
Can the local guy who made good outside really come back and be given a chance to lead? Or will his candidacy ultimately be about raising issues and pushing the next person in the job to make the changes the real Baltimore (outside of the Harbor) needs?