One thing is for certain in the 2016 City Council election; there will be at least six new members after it’s all said and done.
Three members – Bobby Curran, Rikki Spector and Helen Holton – decided not to seek another term. One – Jim Kraft – is seeking a different type of seat; a judge’s bench. And two others – Nick Mosby and Carl Stokes – are running for mayor.
John Willis, a government and public policy professor at the University of Baltimore, Willis says with the combination of open seats and challenges to incumbents this will be the first time since single member districts were implemented in 2003 that possibly half of the city council will be comprised of new members.
“We only have had single member districts now for three terms and we’ve never had this much turnover,” he says.
Willis adds the open seats are just as competitive as some of those with incumbents who face stiff challenges; and that candidates are spending between $50,000 and more than $100,000; a surprising amount of money.
Willis says the riots after the death of Freddie Gray last spring may have fueled some of the changeover, but adds that the 2014 election was a precursor to this one.
“With the election of some very young members of the House of Delegates statewide, there were 50 [new members] out of 141 members of the House of Delegates,” he says. “We had new political leadership emerge in the city.”
There are some other elements to consider.
This is the first election since a 2012 charter amendment moved city elections to presidential years. The move was an effort to boost voter turnout after a dismal 11 percent turnout in 2011. There’s an open seat for mayor. And there is a competitive Democratic primary for an open U.S. Senate seat between Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards.
Willis says that adds to the uncertainty and the excitement about what may transpire in the city council elections.
A clean slate
Six candidates vying for Stokes’ 12th District seat answered questions about trash cleanup, economic development and the concentration of methadone clinics during a forum Monday at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore.
Tori McReynolds, who moved to the district a few months ago, sat in the front row taking notes. She said she wanted to see how the candidates responded to questions in the moment.
“Many times, the work that folks do in public service requires them to think on their feet,” she said. “While their websites and their literature is great, that’s prepared in advance in a way that not everything in public service can be prepared in advance.”
Long-time resident Bob Palmieri says a new councilman would mean a clean slate for him. He says Stokes did not talk to people and that he is looking forward to getting someone that will be more visible.
“I’d like to have a district council guy who does know who the people are in his district; goes around and talks to them,” says Palmieri. “He never did that.”