A front-page profile in the Sunday newspaper throws new fuel on the notion of young Brandon Scott running for mayor of Baltimore. He is president of the Baltimore City Council, in case you hadn’t noticed, since he only got the job about 10 minutes ago.
Before that, he was a two-term City Councilman. Before that, he was 12.
No, I joke. He was 27 and working as an aide to then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake when a West Baltimore member of the City Council decided not to run for reelection and Scott jumped into the fray.
Call it fate, call it fortune, call it a political accident – four months ago, Scott took advantage of another accident. He jumped all the way to the Council presidency.
Mayor Catherine Pugh was pushed aside in the wake of her children’s book scandal. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young automatically became mayor, and Scott stepped into the vacated Council presidency.
It was, say City Hall insiders, a tribute to the regard in which Scott is held as a young man of promise. He’s considered smart and hard working.
And he’s 35.
And did I mention he’s been Council president for about four months, and before that he was part of the Baltimore City Council, a body that has never, since at least the dawning of time, been confused with the British Parliament.
And he’s 35 – or did I mention that, too?
OK, I did. I mention it because 35 seems absurdly young to start running a city on the skids, especially a city whose record on recent mayors is now running apace with the 2019 Orioles.
I’m on board with those who think Scott could be mayor one day – and maybe even a good one. But at 35, his experience in city government – and in life — is just getting started.
But we’re taking his candidacy seriously not only because some people think he’s ready for the job – but because, searching the horizon, we can’t think of many people right now who do seem ready.
Again, much like the Orioles, the city of Baltimore has no political bench strength. Go on, give me a name.
I go back to the campaign of 1971, the first one I ever covered. It was William Donald Schaefer’s first run for mayor. You want credentials, how about these? Schaefer was an attorney who served overseas in World War II and came out a colonel. Then, he spent 16 years in the Council, and then served four years – not four months — as Council president.
He ran against George Levi Russell Jr. You want credentials, how about these? Russell was 42, a brilliant attorney who was Baltimore’s first African-American judge on the old Supreme Bench and the first black city solicitor.
Also running were Francis Valle, 54, who was a judge, and Clarence Mitchell III, the son of legendary civil rights icons and the youngest man ever elected to the General Assembly. He was young, 31 when he ran for mayor, but he’d served terms in both state legislative houses by then, and he’d literally grown up in the political and civil rights crucibles.
And they were just the Democrats. The Republicans had Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, who became a political punchline over the years because he ran repeatedly for a series of offices without tasting victory. But Pierpont was chief of surgery at Maryland General Hospital. He was no lightweight.
The city had bench strength back then. We were going through a very rough time in that post-riot era, but we had people running for office who’d made public service their life’s work. They all stuck around after the election and made their contributions to what became the first great city renaissance.
Brandon Scott might make a terrific mayor one day. But his possible candidacy doesn’t reflect readiness so much as the city’s lack of anyone else who’s qualified and actually wants the job.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).