Any would-be influencer who wants to hedge their bets on the outcome of the 2024 Baltimore mayor’s race should save the date – October 18 – and prepare themselves for a crosstown sprint.
The top two declared candidates – incumbent Brandon Scott and former mayor Sheila Dixon – are holding their first big fundraising events on the same day – starting them at the exact same time about three miles apart.
In late August, the mayor’s campaign team announced “An Evening with Mayor Brandon Scott” to take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Fearless Club at the CFG Arena downtown.
Earlier this week came Dixon’s announcement of a “Happy Hour Fundraiser” to kick-off her recently announced mayoral bid at the Bayside Cantina in Canton, also on October 18 and also starting at 5:30 p.m.
Asked about the convergence of money-seeking events, Dixon told The Brew she had no idea her Happy Hour was going to overlap with Scott’s shindig.
“The people who chose the date didn’t tell me this – I didn’t hear about it until Monday,” Dixon said.
The organizers were pressed “to find a day that worked for the restaurant and others involved – October is a busy month,” she added.
Rachael Rice, Dixon’s fundraising consultant, said she didn’t realize the event fell on the same day as Scott’s until about a week after she landed on the date.
“It certainly wasn’t a direct challenge” – Dixon fundraiser Rachael Rice.
“Some people will go to one, some people will go to both. I decided it was no cause for concern,” Rice said yesterday. “It certainly wasn’t a direct challenge.”
The date fit the campaign’s goal to hold the fundraiser about five weeks after Dixon’s formal announcement.
Rice said her team generally strives to avoid conflicts around religious holidays, Ravens and Orioles games, and big political events.
“Like a Wes Moore birthday party,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to go up against something like that.”
Issues and Optics
Since formally entering the race earlier this month, Dixon has been pushing her get-tough promises on public safety and education and sending signals about her allies in the political landscape.
On social media, she highlights her attendance at a “much-needed” public safety town hall organized by Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and posts a screen grab from her appearance on a segment of Fox 45’s “Project Baltimore” headlined: “40% of city high schools have 0 students proficient in math.”
In recent days, Scott has presided over a playground ribbon-cutting, joined other officials to tout efforts to uplift the Broadway corridor in East Baltimore, and taken to Twitter to note that homicides in 2023 are “down 20%” compared to 2022.
He’s also suffered the bad optics of an after-action report on police indifference and inaction prior to the Brooklyn Homes mass shooting, the unfolding of a much-diminished Artscape and the horrific killing and assault of a young local tech leader, Pava LaPere.
The race ahead of the May 14 Democratic Party primary is a rematch for the two candidates.
In 2020, Scott edged Dixon, capturing 29.6% of the vote to Dixon’s 27.5%.
The present difference in the two candidates’ campaign coffers is stark.
The most recent reports, released in January, show just under $5,000 for Dixon and nearly $451,000 for Scott. (A Super PAC, created over the summer to support Dixon, has yet to report any financial activity.)
The next campaign report in January 2024, Dixon’s campaign staff promises, will show strong results.
Her upcoming event, to be held at a restaurant with a view of the Baltimore harbor, offers tickets ranging from $25 to $1,000, the “Gold Sponsor” level.
Tickets for Scott’s fundraiser go from $100 to $6,000, the maximum allowable in an election cycle under state law.
The location for Scott’s event, the Fearless Club, is a renamed 900-person entertainment area co-hosted by arena developer Oak View Group and the local digital services company, Fearless.
Earlier this year, Fearless announced plans to use the space as “a hub for Baltimore to connect underrepresented BIPOC business owners to the community, connect underrepresented BIPOC talent to employers and connect individuals across lines of difference.”
The rapidly growing company was co-founded by Delali Dzirasa and his wife, Letitia Dzirasa, a pediatrician who was named Baltimore Health Commissioner in 2019.
She is now an acting deputy mayor in Scott’s cabinet.