We got winners in most, but not all, primary races Tuesday. But it’s an election that will go down as one of Maryland’s most memorable, divisive and — with regard to voter turnout — most disappointing.

Here are some takeaways from Tuesday’s results.

Voters choose stability for City Hall

Despite the votes left to count, Mayor Brandon Scott declared victory in the mayoral primary by the end of Tuesday night, following a call from the Associated Press determining that he had mounted enough of a lead to win the primary.

The result mirrors Scott and former Mayor Sheila Dixon’s last matchup four years ago, though that race involved many additional days of counting — and several thousand more votes. In that race, Scott out-performed Dixon in mail-in ballots and during early voting while she cleaned up on election day. This year, the reverse is true.

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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott addresses his supporters after winning the Democratic primary Tuesday. (Jessica Gallagher)

City government has long been characterized as dysfunctional, and there are a slew of factors driving that reputation. But there’s one thing that has held true for a long time: too much turnover in office.

When former Mayor Martin O’Malley left City Hall early in his second term for the governor’s mansion in 2007, it set off an era of the “revolving door” mayor: first O’Malley, then Dixon, then Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, then Catherine Pugh, and then Bernard C. “Jack” Young. With each mayor comes a new administration, hell-bent on checking items off their agenda in quick fashion to guarantee a second term. But all, for one reason or another, have fallen short of delivering consistency.

Scott and his allies have been able to cite City Hall’s constant trading-of-the-hands as a reason for some of Baltimore’s shortcomings — including the state of Downtown Baltimore, the city’s inadequate permitting system and its antiquated procurement process, among others. Scott would be the first mayor since O’Malley to be elected to two consecutive terms, and he could be the first mayor since Kurt Schmoke to actually see a full 8 years through.

As Goucher College pollster Mileah Kromer put it: “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.”

Where do Dixon die-hards go now?

The former mayor, 70, said earlier this cycle that she has no intention of running for office again. Four years from now, who will her base — who credit her with lowering crime, delivering effective management and improving quality-of-life concerns throughout the city — look to back instead?

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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 her supporters she would wait for mail-in votes after the Democratic primary race was called for incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Dixon proved she was always competitive. But she couldn’t broaden her appeal to get over the hump in mayoral runs in 2016, 2020 and 2024.

And who will be the next person tapped by David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair Inc., who invested heavily in her run?

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Can Bates, Cogen and Scott kiss and make up?

Among Dixon’s highest profile supporters, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and Sheriff Sam Cogen now face the prospect of having to work with a mayor they opposed.

Do they find a way to make amends with Scott, whom both have criticized relentlessly over the last few weeks as an inadequate partner? Or do they all continue to trade barbs and make a messy mess messier?

If Scott’s ratio holds, he’ll end the night with a little more than 50% of the vote. Bates, whom polls have shown is the city’s most popular politician, received about 41% in his three-way race two years ago. Cogen earned a little more than 51% of the vote in the 2022 sheriff’s race.

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So who has the mandate on law and order now?

The mayor’s good night may get even better

Scott went to bed Tuesday night with the path to a second term mostly in the clear. He might wake up with an equally sweet prospect: more allies on the City Council than he had the day before.

City Council President Nick Mosby, who is consistently Scott’s council foil, lost his reelection bid.

Labor leader Jermaine Jones — an unabashed Scott supporter — looked poised to land a narrow win over incumbent Robert Stokes in the city’s 12th District, an upset in one of the city’s trickiest council districts. With the upcoming retirement of Kristerfer Burnett, another Scott ally, at the end of the year, the mayor may see that seat filled by Paris Gray, a Scott pal who had a 53-vote advantage over former state Del. Bilal Ali in the 8th District.

In the 1st District, soon to be vacated by presumptive City Council President Zeke Cohen, Mark Parker declared victory late Tuesday. Scott declined to endorse in that race, saying Tuesday afternoon that he considered both Parker and competitor Liam Davis to be his friends.

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The other City Council candidates who endorsed Scott — Sharon Green Middleton, Danielle McCray, John Bullock, Ryan Dorsey, James Torrence and Phylicia Porter — also appeared likely to hang onto their seats.

A stunning finish for Alsobrooks

The latest round of opinion polling indicated a close finish was likely in the Democratic primary for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat. A Baltimore Sun-OpinionWorks poll conducted in April even indicated that it would be an easy win for Trone.

The polls were wrong.

Senate Candidate Angela Alsobrooks speaks at her election night party held on 5/14/24 in Greenbelt, MD.
U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks at her election night party in Greenbelt. (Eric Thompson/For The Baltimore Banner)

Alsobrooks blew out the competition. By the end of the night, the county executive — often reserved and mild-mannered in public — declared victory before midnight. Early Wednesday, she commanded a more-than 10-point lead over Trone as ballots continued to trickle in.

As Banner columnist Rick Hutzell predicted: The road to Maryland’s future may run through Montgomery County. Alsobrooks not only bested Trone in his home turf of Montgomery County, but also in Prince George’s, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City.

A horrific day for turnout

In 2020, Joe Biden and President Donald Trump turned out more than 1 million Maryland voters amid a once-in-a-generation pandemic, mounting calls to reform racial inequalities throughout society and a chaotic economy experiencing rapid inflation. Baltimore’s top two mayoral candidates turned out about 80,000 voters.

On Wednesday morning, Biden and Trump had pulled in about 580,000 votes combined, and no more than 65,000 votes had been counted in Baltimore’s mayoral primary.

What gives?

Turnout was depressed up and down the ballot Tuesday — and it likely didn’t stem just from the afternoon showers. Both presidential nominations were already settled. And some counties only had a handful of races to vote on.

Scenes inside of Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School in precinct 24 on May 14, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Voter turnout was low in Baltimore. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

But when voters stay home, no one wins — and turnout was down across the state.

Armstead Jones, Baltimore’s elections director, said Tuesday night that he was disappointed with voter turnout in the city. “There were no lines anywhere,” he said. “It’s not real good.”

He said as of 6 p.m., the city had only seen roughly 30,000 voters, and only one tray of just 40 to 50 mail-in ballots.

“Normally we can get up to 10 or 12 trays per day,” he said.

There was, at least, one candidate who attracted more turnout in 2024 than in 2020: The uncommitted vote, which received nearly 10% of the total in this year’s Democratic presidential primary race — more votes than Biden challengers Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips combined. In 2020, about 23,000 voters, or 2.3% of the primary electorate, voted uncommitted in the presidential primary.

It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 390,000 votes Biden did receive in Maryland, but it’s a clear message that at least some voters are deeply dissatisfied with the White House’s response to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

Unions strong

It was a big night for organized labor in Baltimore.

In addition to helping to boost Jones in Baltimore’s 12th District — Jones outraised Stokes by a stunning 25-to-1 margin in April, largely thanks to support from unions — the labor-backed candidates all will likely advance in their primaries.

The exception may be Eric Costello, who received the coveted AFSCME Maryland Council 3 endorsement but has not yet declared victory in his 11th District City Council race. He held a 25-vote lead over challenger Zac Blanchard, with mail-in and provisional ballots left to count.

Baltimore Banner data reporter Ramsey Archibald contributed to this report.

This article has been updated with the correct year that Martin O'Malley left City Hall.

Hallie Miller covers housing for The Baltimore Banner. She's previously covered city and regional services, business and health at both The Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

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