Baltimore is Heading for a Scott vs Dixon General Election
We know where this is going because we've seen this movie before
Lots of pundits from around both in Maryland and around the country (myself included) bemoaned the fact that on the night of Maryland’s primary election on June 2nd it appeared that disgraced former Mayor Sheila Dixon would win the Democratic Primary in Baltimore’s Mayoral Election. With Baltimore being a dominantly Democratic city and despite the likely challenge of independent candidate Bob Wallace, Dixon’s apparent victory in the primary likely would have elected her Mayor.
Things have changed in the ensuing week, however, with Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott taking the lead. For the moment, it appears Scott will win the Democratic primary.
The issues with Maryland’s primary election, both in Baltimore and across the state, are well-known and are frankly rather epic. Lots of people did not receive ballots in this ostensibly all-mail election. And there have been some incorrect ballots, confusing results, delayed results, and election officials literally asleep at the wheel.
To say it’s been a mess would be too polite.
Dixon said Monday that she is concerned with the execution of the mail-in election.
“I think anybody would want this to come to an end,” she said of the lengthy voting-counting process. “There are some questions and concerns that I have.”
Asked if she would call for a recount if Scott beats her by a thin margin, Dixon said she’s “keeping all options open.” She said she spoke with her lawyers Monday about a number of issues, but declined to elaborate on what they were.
It’s the '“keeping all options open” which is the key in that statement.
Let us take you back to the 2016 Democratic Primary for Mayor of Baltimore. In that election, Catherine Pugh defeated Sheila Dixon by about 2,600 votes. But that election was also plagued by peculiarities and irregularities. That election, which was not an all-mail election, was eventually decertified by the Maryland State Board of Elections before it was finally sorted out.
What happened after that? Sheila Dixon decided to run in the General Election as a write-in candidate:
Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon registered as a write-in candidate for mayor Tuesday, setting up an unconventional general election rematch with her Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh.
Flanked by supporters, Dixon told more than a dozen reporters gathered at the Baltimore Board of Elections that it wasn't clear she actually lost April's hard-fought primary to Pugh. Dixon and supporters cited irregularities during the primary election. They included 1,650 ballots that state officials found were handled improperly and eight data files that were missing for about a day after the election.
"The question is, 'Did I really lose the primary?'" Dixon asked.
"No!" her supporters shouted, before chanting: "Baltimore wants their mayor back!"
It doesn’t take the Amazing Kreskin to realize that we are heading down a similar glide path. Dixon refused to concede in 2016, and there is no reason to believe she will in 2020 given how the issues with this primary election were exponentially larger than four years ago. This year, however, things that write-in campaign might be a little different.
For one thing, I doubt Dixon will wait until October to declare her write-in candidacy. Dixon only obtained 22% of the vote as a write-in in 2016. But she waited to file until October 16th, long after sample ballots and absentee ballots that include information about filed write-in candidates were sent to voters. Given how more voters are likely going to be voting by absentee ballot in 2020 vis-a-vis 2016, it would be politically prudent to not wait this year.
The bigger difference is the potential presence of Bob Wallace. Though Wallace still needs to submit around 4,000 signatures to make the ballot, it sounds like his campaign will not be a pushover. Wallace already has $100,000 cash-on-hand, which is unusual for a non-Democrat. In her last campaign report, Dixon reported $111,000 on hand, with $230,000 on-hand for Scott. Considering Dixon and Scott likely spent heavily between the May 22nd report deadline and the June 2nd primary, Wallace likely has either financial party with the two or perhaps even a cash-on-hand advantage. Considering Wallace’s advisors tell the Sun he’ll be well-resourced, we could really be seeing a three-way general election this fall.
Republican Mayoral nominee Shannon Wright will also be on the ballot, but will likely be a non-factor.
Needless to say, we’ve seen this movie before. Sheila Dixon ran as a write-in in 2016, and considering she has an even more legitimate gripe now than she did then, it’s easy to suspect she will be running as a write-in this year too.