Councilman Zeke Cohen announced he’s formed a committee to explore a run for City Council president in 2024, becoming the first Baltimore politician to publicly express interest in higher citywide office.

“We can run a campaign that’s about bringing different voices into the conversation and that restores some faith in local government,” Cohen, a Democrat who represents South Baltimore’s 1st District, told The Banner. “People have lost faith in elected officials and what I’m interested in, what I’ve always sought to do, is create a platform for other people to access city government.”

He announced his intentions at a 150-person fundraiser at Angeli’s Pizzeria in Little Italy on Wednesday night, where the priciest tickets cost $2,000.

The announcement was hardly surprising to Baltimore’s political class — the 37-year-old was widely viewed to be considering a run for citywide office. His campaign has $240,882.56 on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance records filed in late November.

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Cohen said he is deciding between running for City Council president and mayor, and that he expects to make a decision by mid-March.

“We’re still trying to figure out which is the best place for me to serve. But the energy and excitement for change is there,” he said.

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The Massachusetts native first arrived in the Baltimore region to study at Goucher College. He began teaching in Baltimore through Teach For America after receiving his bachelor’s degree; he also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Brewer’s Hill.

He was first elected to the City Council in 2016, as one of several progressive freshmen. The group, which includes Kris Burnett and Ryan Dorsey, became a fairly powerful wing of the council that frequently allied with Brandon Scott, who started 2016 as a councilman and ended the term as mayor-elect, following the political musical chairs sparked by former mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation.

Cohen considered a run for City Council president in 2016, but opted to re-run as a councilman after then-Councilwoman Shannon Sneed threw her hat into the citywide race. She came in second in the 2020 Democratic primary to Nick Mosby, who sailed to a sweeping victory in the general election.

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Cohen and other progressives have sparred with Mosby during his tenure. Cohen chaired the Education Committee under then-City Council President Jack Young; after Mosby entered office, he reassigned Cohen’s chair to Robert Stokes.

Council President Nick Mosby has said he will seek reelection in 2024. His most recent campaign finance report shows he has no money in his campaign bank account. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No other politicians have publicly announced intentions to run for the office.

Cohen’s committee includes fundraiser Sophia Silbergeld of Adeo Advocacy, who most recently worked for Gov.-elect Wes Moore, and police activist Ray Kelly, who will serve as campaign chairman. Malcolm Bates, who managed Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater’s campaign, will manage the campaign.

emily.sullivan@thebaltimorebanner.com

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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