‘Underdogs’ make impressions at Mayoral forum, seasoned politicians remain in the shadows

Aziah Siid and NaTavia Williams

On Saturday, 14 candidates took the stage of Morgan’s Murphy Fine Arts Center to share their visions and while some were similar and others were drastically different—none were the same.  

Moderator Karsonya Wise Whitehead along with Rev. Sheridan Todd Yeary and Rev. Alvin Hathaway posed questions that addressed the main concerns of Baltimore residents. The audience clung to their seats as they listened to each candidate speak on the city’s biggest issues such as crime, education and allocation of government funds. 

The candidates in attendance included: Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, Carlmichael “ Stokey” Cannady, Thiru Vignarajah, T.J. Smith and more.

“I am not a politician, I am a people-tician,” said Baltimore native Yolanda Pulley, who set the tone for the debate through her emphasis on the city needing an elected official who will represent its residents. 

In addition to representation, another popular topic amongst the candidates was law enforcement.

“We talk a lot about putting more police officers on the street, but the quality is not better than quantity,” said Democratic candidate Rikki Vaughn. “When I was growing up the police officers knew us, our mama, our grandmama, our baby mama, our baby daddies, and everybody by name.”

The words of Vaughn rang through the auditorium as many cheered him on in support of his plan to not fix the crime rate through increased patrolling, but more effective policing from those who are already on the police force. 

Vaughn’s words particularly resonated with Baltimore native Patricia Thomas, who referred to him as a “new face.”

Underdogs like himself used this debate to come out of the shadows and distinguish themselves from those who previously held or currently hold a position in office.

Youngest in the game, Dante Swinton, was able to secure a positive crowd reaction when asked what’s his plan on ensuring funds are invested into trauma and mental health in communities. 

The candidates may disagree on the exact policies the city needs, but most can agree that the “holistic approach” is preferred.

Sen. Mary Washington, Young, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, and Scott were the only candidates amongst the 14 that have held representative positions for Baltimore, so many were looking to see what their plans for the city are. 

While some attendees found comfort in more politically seasoned candidates, others—like Baltimore resident Chris Brown—expressed a need for change. 

“Why would I trust any of the ones that’s been[mayor]  in office to take a chance on Baltimore in the state it’s in and give them a chance to continue in that direction,” Brown said.  

Baltimore’s annual high homicide rates coupled with past mayoral scandals involving former mayor Catherine Pugh and Dixon are just the tip of the iceberg of the cities issues. 

Attendee Ain Tripps believes that the best candidate will have a deep connection to the community.  

“It needs to start with footwork it needs to come from outside the office,” Tripps said. “Your community needs to feel you.”