Mayor Young on potential re-election bid: ‘I have a right to change my mind’

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Photo by J.M. Giordano.

You weren’t alone if you were surprised to read this week that Bernard C. “Jack” Young is now considering a mayoral run for 2020. In early May, when he took over for Catherine Pugh upon her resignation amid probes into her personal business dealings, Young assured he would not seek re-election to the post in 2020 and instead seek to reclaim his old job.

But that’s all changed. The Brew reported this week Young has been talking to local political financiers about a potential re-election bid, and The Sun got confirmation from the man himself yesterday that he’s now considering it.

For his part, Young told reporters this morning he was “shocked” by the first report, which cited sources saying he and 11th District Councilman Eric Costello met with “several deep-pocket donors” at the Loch Bar as recently as last week. Young today said he hasn’t been to the Harbor East bar “in over a year.”

But he did confirm to The Sun yesterday that he’s been talking to donors. And today, he shared that with others: “I’m keeping all options open, but I have to really talk with my family first.”

Young explained his original commitment to not seek re-election became moot when Brandon Scott won an internal City Council race to become council president.

Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton had stepped in as ex-officio head of the council after Young became acting mayor, but city lawmakers still had to vote in a replacement for the rest of the term. Scott and Middleton were initially tied for those votes, but after several days Scott came out on top.

Young said that threw a kink in his plan to minimize disruptions to the council president office’s staff ranks. He said he was originally going to bring two staffers with him to the mayor’s office, while Middleton was only going to bring one employee with her upon becoming council president.

“We were not going to disrupt staff, and we were going to make sure that she runs back for her seat, and I would run for president. And that has changed.”

Scott has brought his own staff aboard, and The Sun reported last month that he fired a neighborhood liaison who’d worked for the council president’s office since 2017.

Responding to Young, Scott said in a statement that he’s “proud to have received the unanimous support of my colleagues on the City Council,” Middleton included. “I take this duty seriously and am completely focused on the job at hand. Baltimore needs its leaders focused on curing violent crime, and building an accountable and transparent government.”

Scott also said Young took about one-third of the council president’s office’s staff with him to the mayor’s office, which his spokesperson, Stefanie Mavronis, said amounts to 10 of roughly 30 employees.

While repeatedly defending his right to change his mind to reporters today, Young touted his record so far as mayor, an office he’s held in a permanent capacity for about 10 weeks now.

He pointed to the Robbinhood ransomware attack that has crippled city computer networks and locked employees out of their computers for weeks (and has still suspended water billing), as well as crises resulting from water main breaks at the Poe Homes in West Baltimore and downtown this week.

“Everything that could have happened when I became mayor has happened, and I’m getting it done,” he said. “Me and my staff have navigated and had workarounds for just about everything that has happened in the city.”

Young’s political fundraising committee had about $600,000 in campaign cash on hand as of January, when the last campaign finance reports were due.

A half-dozen lesser-known candidates have filed paperwork to run for mayor, though the only known politician to declare so far is Thiru Vignarajah, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for state’s attorney last year.

Potential competitors who haven’t yet ruled it out include Scott; Sheila Dixon, who resigned as mayor in disgrace in 2010; former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous; state Sen. Bill Ferguson and former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith.

Scott has roughly $143,000 in cash in his campaign account as of January; Ferguson, $72,400; Jealous, about $48,400; and Dixon, about $10,600. Vignarajah has $1,795 left over from his state’s attorney run, per his last filed form from August 2018.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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