City Council President Nick Mosby has affirmed his plans to run for reelection as the leader of Baltimore’s legislative body as the city’s 2024 season swings into view.
“I didn’t want any ambiguity,” the Democrat said. “My upbringing showed me not to run away from problems, but be there to fix them.”
He discussed his plans in an interview with The Baltimore Banner as Councilman Zeke Cohen’s mid-March deadline to announce a decision about his 2024 plans nears. Cohen said earlier this year that he is mulling a run for either council president or mayor.
In deep-blue Baltimore, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 10-to-one, election season kicks off earlier than in purple cities. A win in the spring primary is tantamount to winning in November.
Though Mosby has said for months that he has planned to run for reelection, other politicos, elected officials and City Hall observers have quietly debated those intentions on background, pointing to his wife’s ongoing legal battle, which he was quick to call “the elephant in the room.”
The former top prosecutor’s federal trial, over charges of perjury related to withdrawing money early from her city retirement account and making false claims on a mortgage application, will likely be heard this fall. She lost her bid for a third term as Baltimore City state’s attorney Ivan Bates last summer.
Council President Mosby has not been charged with any crimes. Last month, a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge upheld two out of three findings from the city ethics board, throwing out the most notable allegation of accepting money from contractors seeking to do business with City Hall.
“I’ve shown that I’m going to show up and do my job” throughout Marilyn Mosby’s legal battles and his appeal of the city’s ethics board findings, Mosby said. He cited insisting on transparency in a controversial agreement Mayor Brandon Scott made with Baltimore Gas & Electric to holding regular hearings into the city’s $641 million in federal stimulus spending — actions he says provide a level of accountability that go against the grain of City Hall.
“Folks are waking up, and they’re expecting more out of the government, more out of their council,” Mosby said, adding that the past two years have “laid the groundwork for good governance” which will carry the council through the rest of the term and into another four years.
In the 2020 primary, which was conducted largely by mail and delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, then-Del. Mosby handily defeated then-councilwoman Shannon Sneed with 40.2% of the Democratic vote to her 29.4%.
He campaigned on his experience as a former councilman representing West Baltimore’s 7th District, a position he held amid the uprising following Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained in police custody. Both Mosbys catapulted to national headlines amid the fallout: Nick for a viral interview with Fox News, where he attributed the riots to a failed system and decades of frustration with “the socioeconomics of poor, urban America,” and Marilyn for charging the six officers involved in Gray’s death.
After a failed bid for mayor, Mosby won a competitive race to represent the state’s 40th legislative district as a delegate, an experience he said taught him “how truly equal branches of government operate and function with one another.”
One of his first actions as council president halved the legislative body’s committees — some of which only had three members — and bolstered their membership. “I made a tough decision,” he recalled: “Developing a body where we have real discourse and discussion on these issues, where you don’t only need two votes to pass out of committee.”
This council term has been marked by vigorous debate among members, both about the mayor’s policies and some bills proposed by the council. On Thursday, a committee voted to deny the mayor’s nominee for city administrator; after a weekend of leaning on the administration for political favors, they held a do-over committee meeting to confirm her.
Last spring, a hearing over Mosby’s bill to resurrect a program to sell city-owned vacant homes to long-term residents for one dollar turned rancorous when a rowdy crowd of supporters marched through the building. Led by Bruce Marks, the CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), they demanded that the mayor and council support the proposal. The council ultimately voted against the legislation, which Mosby had proposed be paid for by an infusion of cash from American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The council president has long criticized the mayor’s decision to disburse the pot of $641 million among dozens of initiatives instead of putting most of it toward one singular initiative. “I wanted us to take a step back and aggressively pursue generational change, and I attempted to do that with the dollar house bill and with House Baltimore,” a separate package of laws passed by the council to bolster housing protections for residents.
One lesson learned during the first two years of his term, Mosby said, is strategy: “I thought there’d be enough momentum to really push that bill ... but ultimately we created so much movement that the administration had to come up with a new rental assistance program.”
Several months after he re-entered City Hall, federal officials announced they were opening a probe into the couple’s finances. The former state’s attorney was charged in 2022, months ahead of her reelection bid. She came in third place in the Democratic primary with just under one-third of the vote.
A Baltimore Banner survey conducted by the Goucher College Poll last year showed what city political observers have long known — that voters’ opinions of the political power couple are inextricably linked. No two poll questions elicited more similar responses from residents than the favorability ratings of Nick and Marilyn Mosby.
The average resident is probably unaware of the intricacies of their legal dilemmas, but “they know the feds came in,” pollster Mileah Kromer said last summer. “They also know that they’re married.”
Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs, said that Mosby’s strong name recognition and sturdy bases of support in West Baltimore will be strengths.
Mosby’s most recent campaign finance report from January of this year shows he has just under $1,000 on hand. Cohen reported having just over $372,351.
“As an incumbent, Mosby will attract funding,” Hartley said. “Cohen has built strong support in his diverse district in Southeast Baltimore and can attract support across the party. His fundraising totals are already impressive.”
Mosby has said he does not campaign for donations during off-cycle years.
“You’ll be hard-pressed to identify folks in City Hall that says Nick Mosby doesn’t show up, despite the amount of cameras, despite the noise, despite the attention, despite some of the distractions,” he said.