Sheila’s back, but can she win? | WYPR

Sheila’s back, but can she win?

Oct 11, 2016

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon announced she will try to get her job back as a write in candidate for the general election.

Dixon filed the paperwork Tuesday before a news conference.  She acknowledged her newly revived campaign is going to be challenging.

“I know this is a uphill battle.  But I know that in the next four weeks, were gonna educate people in the ‘ABC’s’ of what it means to write-in a candidate,” she said.

She also added that her campaign is going to be “organic” and “grassroots.”

Dixon, in her announcement Monday, pointed to the District of Columbia, where then Mayor Tony Williams had to launch a write-in campaign for re-election.

His name had been removed from the ballot three months before the September 2002 Democratic primary because of improprieties with names on his candidacy petition.

Williams would go on to win the primary and re-election.

In Baltimore, however, Dixon lost the Democratic primary to state Senator Catherine Pugh by 2,408 votes in April. 

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon answering questions in the City Board of Elections office after filing paperwork to run for mayor as a write-in candidate.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns

But she and her supporters have their doubts, citing issues with lost ballots and polling places that did not open on time.

“The question is did I really lose the primary,” she said. 

The crowd responded with a loud “No!”

“And I’m a leave it at that,” she added.

Never in recent memory has there been a write-in campaign for the office of mayor in Baltimore. 

Matthew Crenson, a retired political science professor with Johns Hopkins University, says Dixon’s chances of winning are not good.

“Write-in campaigns are very expensive,” he says.  “As far as I can tell, she doesn’t have any money or very little money in her campaign fund.”

Dixon’s campaign has $4,480 in the bank.  Compare that to State Senator Catherine Pugh who has more than $280,671.

But Crenson also said Dixon’s late start in the campaign season might also be a disadvantage.

“It’s less than a month away to the election,” he adds.  “She needs far more time than that to round up enough voters who are willing to write in her name.”

Dixon has not actively campaigned since the primary.  But she said she has; because campaigning is about serving.

“I’m out working with companies; I’m working with individuals who ask me to assist them.  And I’m working a non-profit; So I’m doing a lot of things in the community where people see me and come to me daily for not only help but assistance,” she said.

At least two of her opponents said they weren’t surprised Dixon has jumped into the race. But Republican Mayoral Candidate Allan Walden said he was surprised by her timing.

“I was at the Pigtown Festival last Saturday in the rain and Ms. Dixon was there with her minions,” he said.  “And it was obvious she was running something.”

Green Party Candidate Joshua Harris acknowledged Dixon’s commitment to the city, but said her return points to a problem in Baltimore City politics; “an unwillingness for previous elected officials or leadership to let go and really look towards the future for a brighter future with new vision and new leadership.”

“I think that’s kind of something we’re seeing and we have to question whether or not that’s the best thing for the city at this time,” said Harris.

Democrat Catherine Pugh could not be reached for comment.

Dixon said her main campaign platform did not change from the primary.  That she has the experience to hit the ground running if she wins.

Her campaign had postcards ready, explaining how to write in her name for mayor.