Rawlings-Blake officially launches campaign
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officially launched her campaign to retain her seat Monday evening, as the state's highest elected leaders joined in a rally on the lawn of her mother's West Baltimore home.
“I've lived here and worked here my entire life. This is our hometown,” said Rawlings-Blake, who was flanked by Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Elijah Cummings, among other elected officials.
Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor in February 2010 following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, touted her balanced budgets despite major deficits, overhaul of the police and firefighter pension system, ethics reforms and school system gains.
“We want real progress, not empty promises,” she said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true. The hard truth and the hard work are the only things that make it work.”
More than 200 people, including many city and state workers, flocked to the leafy neighborhood of Ashburton for the event Monday evening. Rawlings-Blake's mother, Nina Rawlings, a retired pediatrician, still lives in the home where she and her husband, the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings, raised their three children.
Nina Rawlings clapped enthusiastically from the front of the crowd and jumped up and waved a sign at one point. The mayor's husband, Kent Blake, and daughter Sophia, stood with her onstage.
As Rawlings-Blake read her remarks, Sophia, 7, clung to her side, periodically whispering questions, and once asking audibly, “Are you done, Mommy?”
O'Malley spoke of Rawlings-Blake's father, saying he was “schooled at this kitchen table” many times early in his tenure as mayor of Baltimore. Rawlings' support played a key role in O'Malley's election to lead the city in 1999.
Rawlings-Blake is “the woman we need right now to move the city forward through these challenging times,” O'Malley said.
Cummings praised Rawlings-Blake's budgets — she closed gaps of $121 million and $65 million in the past two years — saying she “cut the budget with the skill of the most skillful heart surgeon.”
“I will do everything in my power to make sure she is reelected,” Cummings said.
Mikulski said Rawlings-Blake “will and does represent every neighborhood and every community.”
“We have one Baltimore and [Rawlings-Blake] knows how to bring us together,” Mikulski said.
Rawlings-Blake demonstrated her ability to bring politicians together at the event, as a majority of City Council members and several state delegates, including Curt Anderson and Keiffer Mitchell stood behind her.
Several state senators, including Lisa Gladden, Verna Jones-Rodwell, Nathaniel McFadden, also stood with Rawlings-Blake, although their Senate colleague, Catherine Pugh, is one of her leading challengers.
Former city planning director Otis Rolley, former city councilman Joseph T. “Jody” Landers and clerk of courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. have also filed to run. Councilman Carl Stokes said last week that he planned to submite his papers this week.
The filing deadline for all the city races is July 5, the board of election chief said last week.
In her remarks, Rawlings-Blake made several veiled jabs at Rolley's education platform. Rolley has repeatedly criticized the city school system and called for mayoral control of schools and vouchers for students at the five lowest-performing middle schools.
He stepped up his criticism of the system last week after schools CEO Andres Alonso revealed that two elementary schools showed cheating on mandatory state tests.
Rawlings-Blake said she was “positive” her daughter, a student in the city school system, is “getting a good education.”
“It's so sad to me when some people try to make us feel miserable about our schools ... miserable about our city, to promote themselves,” she said.
In an emailed statement Monday morning, Rolley said he was “happy” to see that Rawlings-Blake had drawn elected officials around her for her announcement.
“While her campaign is based on the establishment propping her up, I am basing mine on standing with the residents, workers, and families of Baltimore. It’s a different way of looking at things and a different set of priorities,” he said in the email.