Mayor Brandon Scott kicked off his campaign for a second term Saturday afternoon surrounded by about 100 supporters at the Cahill Recreation Center, giving voters their first glimpse of the message he will push as he faces former Mayor Sheila Dixon in the 2024 primary.

“Change is hard, and change is often fragile,” he said. “Once again, Baltimore has a choice about whether we will continue on a sustainable path forward or if we will go back to the broken ways in the failed leadership of the past.”

Scott, who will turn 40 a few weeks before the May 14 primary, intensified a competitive race by touting his 17 years of experience in city government and wins as mayor without any ethics scandals. He directly addressed Dixon, who left office in disgrace amid a corruption trial in 2010, more than he has during the election season thus far. Without naming her, Scott asked the crowd to think about what other candidates mean when they talk about returning to the past.

“Do they really think those days were the good old days?” he asked. “Or maybe they mean we should go back to the days when our political leaders acted as though what is done in the dark will not come to the light. When they thought they could violate our trust, because they thought they wouldn’t get caught putting their personal game ahead of Baltimore’s public’s trust.”

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The choice cannot be clearer, Scott said.

Dixon narrowly finished second to Scott in 2020. He also faces Bob Wallace, who ran in that year’s general election as an independent, as well as a handful of other grassroots candidates in the Democratic primary. The deadline to file a candidacy is Feb. 9.

The revitalization of rec centers and public spaces for Baltimore youth is among the mayor’s favorite issues. They’ve been home to other major moments in his first term, including this year’s State of the City address, which he delivered at the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center. At Cahill, which reopened in 2021, Scott said he wants to ensure that future generations can have it much better than he did.

Supporters listen during Mayor Brandon Scott’s reelection campaign launch event at the Cahill Recreation Center in Leakin Park on Saturday. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Kamrin Brown, a former squeegee worker who was connected to city programming when he was 17 and now works as a Johns Hopkins security guard, said he relates to the mayor thanks to shared obstacles in their upbringing as Black boys growing up in Baltimore.

“He’s for the youth, I can say that. On the journey, he came through and showed me love. He showed me love off camera,” Brown, 21, said.

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“We listened to young people about what they wanted to do,” Scott said, touting a successful program that connected squeegee youth workers to schools and jobs. “When’s the last time you heard ‘squeegee’? You haven’t, because those young people are connected.”

Other political officials showed up to mark their support for Scott, including councilmembers James Torrence, Danielle McCray, Ryan Dorsey and Kristerfer Burnett. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, state Sen. Cory McCray and Del. Caylin Young also attended.