Zeke Cohen won the race for Baltimore City Council president with roughly double the votes of either of his opponents, incumbent Nick Mosby and Shannon Sneed.

“I will be proud and humbled” to lead the council, said Cohen, now a second-term 1st District councilman, at his election party Tuesday night at Darker Than Blue Grille in Mount Vernon. “Instead of throwing mud and pulling our opponents down, we lifted up every community and every neighborhood in Baltimore.”

Sneed, a former councilwoman who ran a grassroots campaign as one of Baltimore’s first publicly financed candidates, received more votes than Mosby.

Mosby said Wednesday morning that he had called Cohen to congratulate him; Sneed called Cohen to congratulate him late Tuesday, her campaign manager said.

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“I am a son of the city of Baltimore,” Mosby said at the start of Wednesday’s Board of Estimates meeting. “I am very appreciative for what the city has poured into me, but more importantly for the opportunity to serve the city of Baltimore.”

He added: “It’s time to move the city forward.”

The race for Baltimore’s second-highest elected leader pitted Cohen’s aggressive and formidably financed operation against a leaner, sometimes haphazard bid for reelection from Mosby and a potential spoiler in Sneed’s small-dollar campaign.

Cohen entered the race for council president unusually early, in March 2023, and canvassed neighborhoods for months while his competition remained largely on the sidelines. At the last reporting deadline, Cohen’s campaign had raised more than $600,000 — a hefty sum in a race typically overshadowed by the mayor’s contest — while heavily outspending both of his opponents.

City Council President Nick Mosby shakes hands with a supporter on election night, as votes showed him well behind Zeke Cohen. (Gail Burton)

Mosby, by contrast, turned up his campaign in the final weeks before election day, hitting radio airwaves and collecting a raft of endorsements from a former mayor and moderate colleagues on the City Council. The council president waited months to begin fundraising or activate a campaign website, and he didn’t officially file his candidacy until the eve of the deadline.

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In deep-blue Baltimore, the Democratic primary election typically decides the city’s next leaders. The winner of the primary contest will be a heavy favorite in November’s general election, where the Democratic nominee will face the GOP’s Emmanuel Digman.

The council president will oversee a legislative body whose membership is also being decided Tuesday. The Democratic nominee is likely to play a prominent role in City Hall as both collaborator and foil to the next mayor. Mayor Brandon Scott won the Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday night.

For Mosby, a loss would bring to a close, at least for now, a decadelong chapter in which he and his ex-wife, former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, have commanded the political spotlight in Baltimore.

Mosby rose to prominence about a decade ago as the representative for the West Baltimore district where Freddie Gray lived and died. After a failed bid for mayor in 2016, he represented West Baltimore in Annapolis before returning to the Baltimore City Council as the body’s president in 2020.

His tenure as council president, though, has often been rocky. In early 2022, his then-wife Marilyn was indicted for mortgage fraud and, in the buildup to her much anticipated U.S. District Court trial, the college sweethearts divorced.

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At her trial in Greenbelt earlier this year, Marilyn was convicted on two counts of fraud, while Nick took the blame from the witness stand for the couple’s questionable tax returns. Federal prosecutors accused him of perjury in open court and laid bare his financial missteps.

At a polling site in Mount Vernon, retired resident Joyce Hamer said she’s been disappointed that Mosby didn’t pull together a more visible campaign.

Still, it’s clear that Mosby cares about Baltimore, said Hamer, who worked at the Johns Hopkins School of Education before retiring.

“I think everybody who’s doing the job has personal problems,” she said. In the case of other officials, “we just don’t know what they are.”

Zeke Cohen hugs a supporter on election night, May 14, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz)

City Hall employee Angela Wood said as she was leaving a Mount Vernon polling site that she opted for Cohen over Mosby. Wood, who works in the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, has kept close tabs on the City Council in recent years and isn’t persuaded by Mosby’s appeals to look past his personal troubles.

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Cohen, meanwhile, has impressed Wood with his engagement in her office’s flagship youth employment program. He comes to meetings and answers questions, she said.

As the representative for one of Baltimore’s most economically prosperous districts over the last eight years, Cohen emerged as a prominent face on the council. The 1st District councilman has also drawn backing from many corners of city government in his bid for council president, pulling endorsements from Comptroller Bill Henry as well as Ivan Bates, Baltimore’s tough-on-crime state’s attorney.

He pledged to mend relationships between the council and its constituents, in part by taking some meetings out of City Hall and into neighborhood venues. He also promised to hold agencies to account for better services.

Baltimore residents pay “double the property taxes” of their neighbors across the county line, Cohen has repeatedly told voters, but aren’t receiving “double the city services.”

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