Could we have a six-way campaign for mayor of Baltimore in which nobody in town really wants anybody in the race to win?
That’s the real message in this week’s front-page political poll story in The Sun. The headline read, “It’s a three-way race.”
But this is a misnomer.
The Democratic primary poll, conducted by The Sun, the University of Baltimore and WYPR-FM, reveals that former Mayor Sheila Dixon and former T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller are tied for the lead at 18 percent. They’re followed by City Council President Brandon M. Scott at 15 percent.
Pause for just a moment to consider the implications if these numbers hold up, and if as usual the Democratic winner in the June 2 primary vote would then easily win a general election against whichever Republican is sent out for slaughter.
It would mean the next mayor of Baltimore could win election with fewer than 1-in-5 citizens voting for him or her.
Now there’s a real confidence booster for everybody around here.
Trailing the top three Democrats, we find former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah with 11 percent, former police spokesman T.J. Smith with 6 percent, and incumbent Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young at 5 percent.
Poor Mayor Young.
But let’s get back to the original premise of this piece: that “three-way race” headline on The Sun’s front page is a misnomer.
In fact, it’s anybody’s race.
The most important number isn’t the 18 percent shared by each of the two leading contenders nor poor Mayor Young’s 5 percent.
It’s 22 percent.
And it’s 41 percent.
According to the poll, which was conducted May 11-18, 22 percent of voters are undecided.
And 41 percent said they were open to switching to a new candidate.
In other words, vast numbers of city residents are now staring at the election ballots that arrived in our homes this week and thinking, “What do I do now?”
Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we really don’t know much about these candidates, do we?
We’ve seen their TV ads, which tell us nothing. They all say they’re against crime, which is not exactly a courageous stand.
They all want to lead Baltimore into a post-coronavirus pandemic world. But nobody describes how they would actually do this.
Have we read any of their position papers? Of course not. Have we studied their history in public office? Probably not, except maybe for Mayor Young and former Mayor Dixon.
And that’s Young’s big problem. We’re living through a time when the accepted narrative about the city is pretty bad — all those homicides, all that poverty, all those vacant homes, all those … ah, you know the list.
And Young’s the mayor overseeing this situation. So naturally, he’s getting the blame, which is why he’s way down there at 5 percent. It’s not so much a measure of Young as a reflection of our perception of life in the city.
Dixon’s the other one whose record we know. And part of it’s a criminal record. So we’re left measuring her time as mayor versus the multiple acts that cost her that job and set into motion the past decade of mayors who were pushed into the position.
First Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who sleepwalked through the job.
Then Catherine Pugh, who cashed in on the job and is now headed for the slammer.
And poor Mayor Young. Judging by this new poll, he’s paying the price for the previous three mayors who got the city into this sad state, and his own inability to turn things around.
All of which means, it’s still anybody’s race to win.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, including “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).