- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Remember this name: Catherine Pugh.

She’s a Democrat, which means Libertarians, Republicans and conservatives had better get their A-game together.

She’s the majority leader of the state Senate in Maryland, where both legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats.

She’s the senator for Baltimore, a native daughter who represents an area of the state that loves its Republican governor, Larry Hogan, with more fervor than is shown for him in suburban D.C.

Ms. Pugh been elected the Democratic mayoral nominee of a city that has not elected a Republican mayor since Theodore McKeldin left office in 1967. In November, she faces off with Alan Walden, a Republican whose face and voice are familiar because of his decadeslong career in radio and TV.


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Their race, of course, is to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Democrat who made an international name for herself and Baltimore when riots and assorted violent acts erupted the day Freddie Gray was buried.

Currently serving as secretary of the Democratic National Committee and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mrs. Rawlings-Blake served as a member of the Baltimore City Council prior to becoming its president after a Democratic colleague, Sheila Dixon, was elected mayor in 2006.

Mrs. Rawlings-Blake became mayor in 2010 after Ms. Dixon resigned amid felony and misdemeanor charges of perjury and misconduct. In 2012, she won the seat outright.

The April 2015 Gray reverberations and entrance of Mr. Hogan unraveled whatever plans Mrs. Rawlings-Blake had as mayor. In September, she announced that her name would not be on the ballot, which immediately opened the door for pols with great name recognition, including Ms. Dixon, Ms. Pugh and Nick Mosby, the City Councilman married to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

The trials of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of 25-year-old Gray — Officers William Porter, Caesar Goodson Jr., Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, and Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White — are slated to begin anew next month.

Officer Porter, who tangoed after a mistrial in December, is scheduled to testify at the trials of Officer Nero, set to begin May 5, and of Lt. Rice, set for July 5 — and the judge handling the cases expects a fairly tight schedule.

While the Republican and Democratic nominees for mayor won’t hold political sway over Baltimoreans’ take on the results of those trials, the next mayor will be responsible for the aftermath of not only the trials but also a clear, decisive plan to move Baltimore forward.

You cannot — or maybe I should temper that to should not — espouse your vision for cleaning up the city’s mess by saying rioters were merely expressing their frustrations, or if only we had more recreation areas and green space, or poverty leads to violence.

In 2016, block after block of boarded-up row houses and storefronts and vacant buildings are as tell-tale today as they were when the HBO series “The Wire” introduced America to Charm City beginning in 2002.

That speaks volumes to the need for a new vision. The first black female mayor of Baltimore, Ms. Dixon didn’t substantially improve the picture, and the legacy of the second, Mrs. Rawlings-Blake, piled on during the riots.

Ms. Pugh has a curriculum vitae that extends beyond elective office, although she, too, served on the City Council. She’s a business owner and worked in public affairs TV, and she’s also an author.

What she said to separate herself from the Democratic primary pack is practically irrelevant from here on out. Indeed, the been-there done-that factor played pushed Ms. Pugh to the top.

It’s just that in a general election, you have to articulate a plan if you want to win — and that’s especially true if you want a mandate.

Ms. Pugh can easily consider herself the presumptive mayor-elect, considering Baltimore’s electorate is unbalanced 10-1 toward the Democratic side.

Let’s hope she doesn’t. Doing so means she would have fallen into the same trap as Ms. Dixon and Mrs. Rawlings-Blake.

You can’t move Baltimore forward when you start out trapped in a deep hole.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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