Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's political career seemed to be over in 2010 when she resigned after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, but now she's once again mulling a comeback to reclaim her old office. Should she wage another campaign to lead this loyally blue city, the former mayor would be seeking to oust incumbent Brandon Scott, who beat her 30-27 in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Dixon sounds quite interested in waging such a campaign next year. "I’ve been praying on it," she told WBFF Fox45 in June. The following month, longtime Baltimore politico Anthony McCarthy, a Dixon ally, told a crowd that included the ex-mayor that she was "getting involved in a campaign," continuing, "I’m not going to say anymore, but you may be able to vote for her again very soon."
Around that time, an organization that the Baltimore Banner characterized as a "prominent fundraising group" set up a pro-Dixon super PAC. The former mayor responded by telling the site, "It would definitely inspire me to enter, because I hate fundraising." Maryland's filing deadline is Feb. 9, so the Dixon still has a bit of time to decide.
But she may not be the only Democrat who tries to deny renomination to Scott. In particular, Thiru Vignarajah, a former federal and state prosecutor, tells the Baltimore Sun he hasn't ruled out a bid. "I’m not thinking about the mayor’s race right now," he insisted when asked whether he was taking a campaign off the table. Tellingly, he added, "If we’re serious about tackling crime and corruption, surely our only options can’t be Brandon and Sheila."
Vignarajah, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary, was on the ballot again last year when he challenged another disgraced Baltimore official, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is awaiting trial for mortgage fraud and perjury. However, defense attorney Ivan Bates ended up beating Vignarajah 41-30 in the Democratic primary as the balance went to Mosby; Dixon herself appeared in super PAC ads promoting Bates, commercials the Banner characterized as "ubiquitous."
Scott became the youngest person ever elected mayor of Charm City when he won at the age of 36, a campaign in which he argued that he'd "change the guard" in a city with a high homicide rate and multiple corruption scandals. Indeed, one of those scandals involved former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who narrowly defeated none other than Dixon 37-35 in the 2016 primary before resigning in disgrace three years later, ultimately pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to her self-published children's books. (Jack Young, the City Council president who succeeded Pugh, ended up taking fifth place in the 2020 primary to remain mayor.)
Scott, writes the Sun's Emily Opilo, has prioritized public safety, but critics note that homicides stubbornly remain over 300 per year, a trend that goes back to 2015. The mayor's team, though, has touted a recent decrease to argue that matters are improving under his watch. At least one potential opponent has found Scott's arguments persuasive: City Comptroller Bill Henry recently opted against a challenge and decided to run for reelection instead. "The fact of the matter is that I like Brandon personally and I do agree with him on so many of the things that he is trying to do," said Henry."
Dixon, for her part, has long retained a solid base of support from voters who remember her as the mayor who helped bring down the murder rate. "She got a raw deal," one backer told Politico in 2020 of the scandal that ended her tenure. "She was actually putting police in the community." Radio host Kaye Whitehead also recently argued to Opilo, "Baltimore tends to reach for the familiar in times of uncertainty. Sheila Dixon is familiar."
Dixon, who turns 70 this year, said in June that this would be her final comeback attempt should she run. "This is the time to do it if I’m going to do it," she told Fox45. "I’m beyond waiting another cycle."