Clarissa Taylor-Jackson first voted for Sheila Dixon for mayor in 2008 because she thought under her leadership the city felt cleaner and safer. The 40-year-old downtown resident voted for Dixon again in the recent primary because she wanted more of that.

“I feel we were in a better place,” she said about Dixon’s leadership.

Loyal Dixon supporters like Taylor-Jackson — a core base of African American and older voters — have kept Dixon a front-runner in the past three mayoral elections but weren’t enough to put her over the top. Dixon has declared this is her last bid for the office, and her most steadfast supporters are left wondering who will speak for their interests.

Taylor-Jackson is looking toward newly elected City Council president Zeke Cohen and member Odette Ramos to reflect the leadership and effectiveness she saw in Dixon. She will also be keeping a close eye on her district council member Zac Blanchard.

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“It’s going to take all of them working together to meet our needs,” she added.

The mayoral race had a roster of candidates but developed into an intense rematch between Scott and Dixon — and their respective tenures.

Dixon sold herself as an uncompromising manager who pledged to take on crime, trash and the aggravations of city living. Scott promoted a drop in violent crimes, and an emphasis on youths and the homeless population.

Scott cruised to a 14 percentage point victory.

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While some of Dixon’s supporters say they are willing to give Scott a chance, they are also looking for others to champion their views.

Supporters of former Mayor Sheila Dixon cheer as she promises to continue contesting the election as votes were counted into the night on May 14, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman)

Retired judge Wanda Heard worked on Dixon’s campaign and believed she was the best person for the job.

“But other people did not agree with me. Now we have Mayor Scott back. I’m only one vote,” she said.

Heard now believes that Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, Sheriff Sam Cogen, and Cohen best share her concerns about crime, safety, education and quality of life issues — all things that attracted her to Dixon. Heard said she is particularly “ecstatic” that Cohen won the Democratic primary and is likely the next City Council president.

“With him represented in that position, many of my ideas that I thought could come through Sheila can actually come to fruition,” the West Baltimore resident said.

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Ruthie Wilder, 73-year-old retiree and Dixon supporter, said she’s willing to work with “whoever gets the job done.”

“Not that I’m jumping fence, because I still like Sheila, and I think she would have been a hell of a mayor,” said Wilder, who serves on the board of directors for the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council. But “Brandon is our mayor and I respect that.”

Although Wilder said she couldn’t think of any current politician who would mirror what she saw in Dixon, she said she’s on the lookout for young political hopefuls.

“All I can do is keep an eye on anyone that is up and coming,” she said.

Scott won with a broad range of support and can win over Dixon supporters — even the most loyal — if he extends an olive branch and listens to their concerns, said Roger Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

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“You’re not going to win everyone over,” Hartley said. “But the very act that you are asking where you went wrong will bring over other people.”

A spokesman for Scott said the mayor has “repeatedly made clear that he is the Mayor for all Baltimoreans and always does the right thing regardless of the politics. It’s the Mayor’s hope that they are willing to work with us too,” Bryan Doherty, the mayor’s director of communications, said in a statement.

Scott’s most vocal opponents also seem ready to put politics aside.

Bates, who endorsed Dixon in the election, said he is ready to collaborate with Scott.

“I remain committed to working with Mayor Scott on behalf of Baltimore residents because that’s the job they elected me to do,” he said.

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Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, a professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola said Scott, who won with more than 50% of the vote, needs to pull in others who didn’t support him — Dixon, Bates, mayoral candidate Bob Wallace, Cogen — to unify the city.

“You do not have the election on the line. You have the support of the majority of the people in the city,” Whitehead said. “He is in an excellent position to move this city together if he chooses to do so.”

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 supporters she would wait out the counting of mail-in votes in the election, May 14, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Some aren’t ready to embrace Scott.

Xavier Conaway, the 26-year-old clerk of circuit courts for Baltimore City, implemented a new filing system that he said addressed “severe” maintenance issues within the court system. Not once did Scott directly reach out to him throughout the process, he said.

“It goes to a lack of engagement,” Conaway said. “It’s hard for supporters of Sheila’s who want to be heard and seen. No one doubts that Mayor Scott loves Baltimore City. But it’s going to take engagement.”

Dixon and her supporters should work with Scott for the betterment of the city, Conaway said.

“If Mayor Scott succeeds, we will all succeed,” Conaway said. “Mayor Scott will need to bring everyone to the table, including elected officials like myself to improve the conditions of our city.”

Arch McKown poses for a portrait outside his house with his Sheila Dixon yard sign on May 8, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Arch McKown, who lives in Butchers Hill, hosted a fundraiser for Dixon and is disappointed at her loss.

McKown, who questioned Scott’s effectiveness as a leader and said the mayor paid little attention to his neighborhood, believes that Bates best reflects his views in terms of “leadership, inspiring people, and representing our values.” Bates has “engendered a lot more confidence” in the States Attorney’s Office since taking office, adding that: “He focuses on restoring safety, justice and equality to Baltimore.”

Cohen also excels with constituent services, and he surrounds himself with a capable staff that results in faster turnarounds on many issues, according to McKown.

“Zeke enjoys a good working relationship with Brandon. I think citywide services to constituents will improve if and when many of the systems Zeke put in place for District 1 are rolled out citywide,” he said.

McKown said he is taking an optimistic approach to Scott.

“To cast stones at him is counterproductive. I’m not anti-Brandon,” McKown said. “I just feel that Sheila had an edge. I look forward to four more years in the community that I can help Brandon be the best mayor in the city-any way I can help.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Wanda Heard's name.