A major dropout whose name is still on the ballot. A rematch held under very different circumstances. A race where “non-endorsement” endorsements became commonplace.

The rematch between incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott and former Mayor Sheila Dixon is here, and it’s been a weird one. With a major recent race shake-up and no public, up-to-date data about how people are feeling, voters head into primary election day in an unusual information vacuum. Another tight finish seems likely. After that, who knows?

Scott narrowly bested Dixon, a former mayor who left office in 2010 amid a corruption scandal, last cycle — an unusual race in which the election was first delayed, then conducted mostly by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite two familiar names on the ballot, trying to compare 2020 and 2024 turnout numbers thus far isn’t much of an analysis, said pollster Mileah Kromer, associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College.

“It becomes an apples to oranges comparison in a lot of ways, because 2020 was this really sort of exceptional year of uprising of upheaval, and uprisings,” Kromer says.

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The two major candidates have polled closely throughout the race. In an early April survey from The Baltimore Banner and Goucher College Poll, 40% of likely voters polled said they would cast a ballot for Scott, while 32% said they supported Dixon. About 10% said they would vote for Thiru Vignarajah, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Dixon the day before early voting began. No third-party polls of the race’s landscape since he dropped out have been released.

Because Vignarajah’s name will still appear on ballots, and supporters had a chance to vote for him by mail before he dropped out, Kromer says it’s difficult to say exactly how much his exit from the race will affect results.

“I think this is another instance of a pretty close election,” she said.

Scott and Dixon continued their final pushes on Monday. Dixon spent the morning rallying supporters on the same block of West Baltimore where she first announced her 2024 run. She has waged two other competitive primary races to reclaim her old seat.

Scott mingled with federal officials on Monday, including Baltimore native U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, as leaders from across the state came together for another Key Bridge collapse update. He also spoke at an event in his home neighborhood of Park Heights.

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Both campaigns likely spent money spreading their message in the final days before election day, but are not required to report their expenditures in the 2 1/2 weeks before the primary until August.

Meanwhile, a super PAC formed to support Scott reported a few last-minute expenditures, while a group in support of Dixon was relatively quiet. Super PACs are required to file reports to the state board of elections within 48 hours of spending $10,000 or more.

Baltimore Forward, which is financed by labor unions, reported a $12,500 buy on Friday with Impact Politics, a California-based media consulting firm. Last week, the group spent $40,000 with Voter Contact Organizing, a Washington, D.C.-based firm. It spent $60,000 on the same firm the week before.

The group received a total of $116,000 from union lobbyists over the last two weeks. The most recent check was cut Sunday. Groups representing AFSCME, the Baltimore DC Metro Building & Construction Trades Council, Baltimore Washington Construction & Public Employees Laborers, the Metropolitan Baltimore AFL-CIO, and SEIU donated.

Better Baltimore, which supports Dixon’s reelection, last reported spending $37,100 on a radio buy and media consulting fees on April 23.

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The group still has about $134,000 on hand as of April 26, the most recent deadline to report spending. Three regular funders of the group donated $50,000 each a few days before the deadline: real estate magnate Jack Luetkemeyer, Sinclair Chairman David Smith, and Atlas restaurateur Alex Smith.

Envelope math

We may not know the results of the mayor’s or City Council president’s races on election day.

Elections officials sent out about 51,466 primary mail-in ballots to city voters. Of those, 12,470 were returned in time to be counted on Tuesday night, along with ballots cast at early voting and election day polling centers.

Another roughly 14,200 ballots arrived since the cutoff date. Elections workers will begin counting those on Thursday.

Elections officials worked differently during the 2020 primary, when pandemic containment measures like social distancing meant that most in-person polling centers were closed. Instead, the state board of elections sent a ballot to every registered voter. Around one-third of city ballots cast in the 2020 primary were by first-time voters, or residents who hadn’t voted in the last three primaries.

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Dixon had a modest lead in 2020′s early mayoral primary returns. But as mail-in ballots were gradually received and counted, Scott’s vote count eclipsed hers. After nearly a week of daily mail-in ballot tallying updates, Scott declared victory. He netted 43,927 votes — which represented 29.6% of the electorate — while Dixon earned just 3,145 fewer votes.

Final victory may depend on those 14,200 mail-in ballots that are slated for the Thursday count. And more may trickle in: Mail-in ballots are valid as long as they are postmarked or placed in a drop box by May 14.

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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