- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | A former White House aide has dropped out of the race to be mayor of Maryland’s capital city — again — and apparently it’s for keeps this time.

Zina Pierre won a Democratic primary by 127 votes last week and seemed to have a solid chance to become the first black mayor of Annapolis. But she told supporters who packed a hotel ballroom for a news conference Wednesday that questions about her finances proved too distracting.

“Some things have slipped through the cracks, and I own up to that,” she said.

Ms. Pierre reeled off a litany of financial problems that became public after the Sept. 15 primary — including trouble paying her mortgage and a state tax lien — saying she has struggled with two sick parents and made mistakes running a small business.

“I believe that my story is no different and not far off from many of my fellow Annapolitans and people around this country,” she said, noting later, “I will be back stronger.”

She did not take questions.

Ms. Pierre, a political consultant who worked with U.S. mayors for eight years as President Clinton’s special assistant for intergovernmental affairs, won the six-way primary with 38 percent of the vote. Mr. Clinton even recorded a robo-call to support her candidacy.

“Zina has chosen to bring this unique experience to work in her hometown as your new mayor,” Mr. Clinton said in the call. “On Sept. 15, Annapolis, you’ve got a chance to turn the page, to make a fresh start. If you choose Zina Pierre, you won’t regret the choice.”

But after the results came in, other news about Ms. Pierre started to trickle out. Blogs and newspapers started reporting personal financial problems and raising questions about whether she had lived in the city for two years, a requirement for mayoral candidates under the city code. Three days after the primary, Ms. Pierre’s then-spokeswoman announced she was pulling out of the race.

A day later, Ms. Pierre had a new spokeswoman and a new campaign manager and, apparently, a new drive to lead the historic sailing city of 36,000.

In a statement Saturday on her Web site, Ms. Pierre said misinformation had led to two days of confusion about her intentions and declared, “I am running for mayor of Annapolis and will continue to fight for all residents, many of whom are calling, texting and e-mailing me with extraordinary support.”

Then she called Wednesday’s news conference to announce that her on-again, off-again candidacy was off for good, saying the next mayor will need a clear mandate to govern without distractions.

The Annapolis Democratic Central Committee will meet Friday to select a nominee to replace Ms. Pierre.

Republican Alderman David Cordle and independent Chris Fox, a local bar owner, also are in the race.

At her news conference, Ms. Pierre said she was not in foreclosure and has been paying her mortgage.

“Have I since tried to correct those mistakes that many of you have seen in the reports that many of those are outdated mistakes that were not updated? Yes,” she said. “I made those mistakes.”

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