Mayor Brandon Scott is on track for a second term, besting challenger Sheila Dixon in Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary.

Scott had a several thousand vote lead over Dixon as results came in Tuesday evening, with more than 70% of precincts reporting, plus results from early voting and a first round of mail-in ballots. The Associated Press called the race for Scott at 11:35 p.m.

“Tonight, you made it very clear that your democracy was not for sale,” said Scott, a first-term mayor who narrowly defeated Dixon in 2020. “I am blessed to have another term to serve as your mayor.”

At an election night party at the Rye Street Market Building in Baltimore Peninsula, supporters screamed with delight after word spread of the AP’s decision. He walked on stage to “Not Like Us,” a diss track recently released by Kendrick Lamar, holding his newborn son Charm who donned soundproof headphones.

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Mayor Brandon Scott addresses supporters on election night, May 14, 2024, after being declared the winner of his re-election campaign.
Mayor Brandon Scott addresses supporters on election night after being declared the winner of his re-election campaign. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

“Victory tonight means the work has just begun,” he said, next to his fiancée Hana Pugh and his stepson Ceron.

Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, the longest-serving member of the council, introduced the mayor before the race was called. She eagerly introduced Scott as “Mayor Brandon Scott,” stressing his title.

“He is my fifth mayor. I’ve had a new mayor every term,” she said.

Like Middleton, who endorsed Scott in what polls suggested what a tight primary, voters chose to stick with political stability instead of handing back the reins to a mayor who left office in 2010 as part of a guilty plea in a corruption case. Chief among Scott’s campaign criticisms of Dixon was a super PAC funded in part by David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair, a conservative TV network.

“Mayor Scott’s victory reflects a shift in public sentiment about the direction of the city, driven by a substantial decrease in crime and his leadership during a time of crisis,” said pollster Mileah Kromer, associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College.

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Former Mayor Sheila Dixon promised supporters she would wait out the mail in votes in the election, May 14, 2024.
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon promised supporters she would wait for outstanding mail votes to be counted. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

In a Wednesday afternoon statement, Dixon did not concede the race, saying she will wait for the rest of Baltimore’s mail-in ballots “before I make any further statements on the outcome of the mayoral primary.”

Dixon hosted her election night party across town at her Remington campaign headquarters. The 70-year-old spoke just before 11 p.m., declining to concede the race with at least 14,000 mail ballots still to be counted starting Thursday.

“It’s not over. I’m not throwing in the towel,” she said. “Whatever happens, I know that we’re all going to continue to be engaged and involved in this city.”

Dixon walked off the stage and was swarmed by supporters — they brought hugs, encouraging words, a glass of prosecco. One supporter began singing a gospel hymn. By 11:15, the party started shutting down for the night, and many supporters had filtered out. Though she remained optimistic despite the numbers, it was time to rest.

“I need my beauty sleep,” she said.

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In deep-blue Baltimore, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 10-to-1, winning the primary is a near-surefire path to winning the general election.

The AP has not called the mayoral Republican primary. Preliminary results show Shannon Wright with 40.15% of the vote, while Michael Moore has 36.75% of the vote. Only 100 votes separate them.

“He’s really done a lot”

Four years ago, Scott narrowly bested Dixon after some of the most tumultuous weeks in American history. After the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, then-Gov. Larry Hogan pushed the primary back a month as officials scrambled to run an election mostly by mail. Baltimoreans sent in their ballots as protests against racist police brutality swept the city and country.

Scott guided the city out of the pandemic and implemented a violence reduction strategy that proved effective. The city experienced a historic drop in homicides in 2023 and is on pace to finish the year at an even lower number of deaths.

The Francis Key Bridge collapse gave the 40-year-old a steady stream of national media appearances alongside Gov. Wes Moore and President Joe Biden. Likely voters gave him high marks for his response to the tragedy.

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Maynn Baxter, a nurse from West Baltimore, cast a ballot for Scott at Beechfield Elementary Middle on Tuesday morning.

She cited his work to support young people, diverting squeegee youths to social services and opening rec centers, including one her 15-year-old grandson frequents.

”He’s really done a lot,” she said.

Mayor Brandon Scott takes a selfie with Sharon Baskin near Hatton Senior Center, in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Scott was there to talk to voters before casting their ballots. (Jessica Gallagher)

Dixon and her allies tried to sell voters with a simple pitch: Scott’s progress wasn’t enough.

The cycle of turnover that plagued the first two years of Scott’s term, mediocre city services that weren’t worth the property tax rate, and a so-called lack of results from the $641 million in pandemic-related federal stimulus funding never would have happened on her watch, Dixon argued throughout her campaign.

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She proved a sturdy competitor in her 2016 and 2020 races to reclaim the office. This cycle, she has proven an even more formidable competitor.

Dixon had benefited from the support of Baltimore’s older Black women voters, a bloc that city politicos have long called “supervoters” for their high rates of turnout. This race, she earned new endorsements from officials influential in other communities, like Councilman Eric Costello and state Sen. Jill Carter.

Her campaign received new momentum when attorney Thiru Vignarajah, who was consistently polling in third place in surveys of the Democratic electorate, dropped out of the race and endorsed her.

Political signs outside Francis Scott Key Elementary on Tuesday.

At a polling site in Mount Vernon, retired resident Joyce Hamer cast her ballot for Dixon, describing the former mayor as Baltimore’s best leader since William Donald Schaefer.

Hamer, who worked for the Johns Hopkins School of Education before retiring, felt Scott didn’t build up enough experience before taking on the city’s top job. He hired Baltimore’s first city administrator after lobbying for a charter amendment to create the role, which oversees city operations. Hamer said the move made Scott seem uninterested in the real work of running the city.

”He wanted to cut ribbons,” said Hamer. “So, he’ll have to do that up at Park Heights now.”

To this day, even under Scott’s tenure, “if you want something done in the city,” she said, “you call Sheila.”

But ultimately, enough voters rallied for Scott, including Somaree Taru. The Sandtown resident went back and forth on who to support in the race before siding with the incumbent.

On the one hand, she felt Sheila Dixon got a “raw deal” on the gift card corruption scandal that drove her out of office and is a more capable executive than Scott.

Mayor Brandon Scott takes a selfie with Sharon Baskin near Hatton Senior Center, in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Scott was there to talk to voters before casting their ballots. (Jessica Gallagher)

But after weighing Scott’s progress, especially the way she felt he led the city out of the pandemic, Taru cast her ballot for the mayor.

“We have an underserved medical community here, we have food deserts,” she said, after casting a ballot on Tuesday. “We had all the makings for it to be a very high death rate, and he really did make certain that we had all of what we needed to get through it with minimal debts.”

A working young professional, she bought a vacant home in Sandtown and revitalized it. She said she chose the neighborhood because of its rich history as a thriving hub for Black Baltimoreans who were first allowed to purchase houses in the area.

But Taru pointed to a patch of overgrown grass and some boarded-up vacant houses across the street from the polling station in her neighborhood as signs that Scott had much more work to do.

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news.

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