Incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake won Baltimore's mayoral election Tuesday, almost two years after her predecessor stepped down amid scandal.
After guiding the city through crises ranging from snowstorms to budget gaps in her assumed role, Rawlings-Blake's win earns her the post in her own right.
The Democrat had been expected to beat her Republican challenger, Alfred V. Griffin III, in the general election, which is often seen as a formality in a city where Republicans make up about 10 percent of the registered voters.
With 28 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday evening, Rawlings-Blake had 11,979 votes or 88 percent, to 1,598 for Griffin or 12 percent.
Turnout was expected to be low for the general election, as it was for the primaries. By 7 p.m. Tuesday, about 9.5 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots. Officials expected a total turnout of about 10 percent, which would mean about 37,000 voters would be picking the next mayor for the city of 620,000.
After her primary win over five challengers, Rawlings-Blake said she was disappointed that only about 22 percent of voters turned out but said she saw broad support from voters in the victory.
Leeroy Brooks, 53, who works in construction, went to Fort Worthington Elementary School to vote for City Council write-in candidate Shannon Sneed. He wondered about the low turnout but said he figured people thought the outcome was set.
“Everyone thinks everything is over,” he said. “Sometimes you can make a difference.”
In the mayoral race, Brooks voted for Rawlings-Blake, saying he liked the way she represented the city.
“Whenever there's a question to be answered, she doesn't beat around the bush,” he said. “And mostly I agree with her.”
Pat Williams, 56, a substitute teacher and registered Democrat, said she was surprised how few people were at the polls Tuesday evening because her polling station is “usually packed.” Williams voted for Rawlings-Blake because she thinks she is doing a good job.
“I think we should give her a little more time,” she said.
This was the first municipal election cycle to feature early voting. Yet only 2 percent of eligible voters did so in in the primary and 1 percent voted early in the general election.
Rawlings-Blake, 41, the daughter of a popular state delegate, was a public defender and was the youngest person elected to the City Council at age 25 in 1995. She and her husband, Kent Blake, send their daughter, Sophia, to a city public school.
Rawlings-Blake became council president in 2007 and ascended to the post of mayor early last year when Democrat Sheila Dixon resigned after an embezzlement conviction and separate plea to lying about gifts from her developer ex-boyfriend.
Some voiced concerns that Rawlings-Blake wasn't up to the job. But as the primary race shaped up, observers noted that she was criticized about her lack of flash and glamour, not her abilities.
Early in her tenure, Rawlings-Blake pushed for reforms to the city's ethics board and faced a $121 million projected budget shortfall with layoffs, agency reorganizations and new taxes. Rawlings-Blake has touted fully funding the city's commitment to its school system and an initiative to fill 400 police officer vacancies despite the tight budget.
Voters also cast ballots for Council members and the Council president. And they weighed in on two ballot questions: whether to establish a fund to maintain school buildings and whether to lower the age requirement for Council members from 21 to 18.
Council President Bernard “Jack” Young also was re-elected Tuesday. Earlier in the evening, he was collecting campaign signs around Fort Worthington Elementary as polls were about to close and said he was disappointed by the low turnout. He said he'd prefer elections be in sync with the presidential election cycle.
“We would like to have better turnout,” he said. “You don't know whether (voters) are saying you're not doing a good job or if they like what you're doing.”