In an open-seat race to replace Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D) after 35 years on the job, four candidates are vying in the Democratic primary for the 14th District seat — but only two have gained much traction.
Through a prolonged, drawn-out campaign where they can no longer go door to door, Odette Ramos and Joe Kane have fought to win endorsements from powerful state and local lawmakers, while keeping their campaigns alive through phone banking and online town halls.
But both candidates have said the extra time — a June 2 primary day rather than April 28 — has helped their campaigns.
“I’m talking with voters and neighbors and connecting them to resources as they need them,” Ramos said. “I think about seniors who are by themselves. I think about our doctors and nurses, grocery store workers. I’ve been working with the union to get them proper protection.
“In our city, we need to have leadership that’s going to help us get out of this crisis.”
Ramos is well known throughout the city, and by politicians. She has a long resume of legislative and advocacy work, with more than 30 years of experience pushing causes in Annapolis and Baltimore.
Last summer, Del. Maggie L. Mcintosh (D), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, endorsed Ramos. Clarke followed in September.
“I’m honored to have her support,” Ramos said about McIntosh’s endorsement. “I’ve helped her with her campaign and she’s helped me with mine.”
McIntosh met Ramos almost 30 years ago, when they were both volunteering for Clarke’s campaign. Ramos was attending Goucher College at the time. Since then, Ramos has volunteered on McIntosh’s campaigns, and in recent years, the two have worked together on issues both at the state and city level.
McIntosh said Ramos has worked on creating land trusts in Baltimore City, has confronted predatory lending, and is active in women’s organizations in Baltimore.
“I know her very well, I know her work in Annapolis, as well as Baltimore and thought she would be really top notch in the City Council,” McIntosh said.
And, McIntosh added, Ramos’ campaign is impressive.
“If you look at her campaign, you’ll get a snapshot of who she is,” McIntosh said. “She went not once, not twice, but three times to the doors in her district. Now that the pandemic is here, she’s calling people and holding online town halls to keep close with the residents in her district.”
To stay connected, Ramos goes on daily runs throughout the 14th District, and posts the pictures she takes on Facebook.
Ramos is currently executive director of the Community Development Network of Maryland and is a member of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee. If elected, she would be the first Hispanic member of the City Council.
And Ramos has by far raised the most money. In the latest available campaign finance report from January, Ramos had raised $56,231, and had $43,008 cash on hand. One of her opponents, Rita Church, an activist and human services case manager, reported less than $1,000. Another opponent, Stephanie Murdock, Clarke’s former legislative director, never filed a campaign finance report.
Joe Kane, Ramos’ main opponent, had raised $10,172 and had $3,775 cash on hand.
Maryland’s June 2 primary will be conducted primarily by mail, with limited polling locations open for those who cannot vote by mail.
Sen. Mary L. Washington (D) says Baltimore needs someone like Kane, who is “unbossed and unbought.” She endorsed the community activist last May, and believes Kane is the right person to help get Baltimore away from “machine politics.”
Washington says the city needs a clean break from the establishment, as political and economic relationships have driven much of Baltimore City politics in recent years. State Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) also endorsed Kane.
“We need a reboot,” Washington said. “We need integrity. We need people that have ties just to the community. We need people to have a clear connection with people that often aren’t heard.”
Washington first met Kane, who lives three blocks away, about five years ago through his work in a parent teacher association at Waverly Elementary School.
“That’s how I’ve met him and known him to be a stand up person who says what he believes,” Washington said. “He can be trusted. He is fully committed to this city and our community.”
Kane is a longtime resident of the 14th District, and well-known in his community, especially through his frequent block events where everyone is invited.
After high school, Kane spent four years in the Army, with a year overseas in Baghdad. Upon his return, Kane attended Morgan State University, and has been organizing ever since, particularly on ways to improve public schools. He’s currently a federal contractor with the U.S. Coast Guard and leads the safety committee in his community association.
“I’ve been behind the scenes for the past 10 years, on the ground, organizing people,” Kane said. “A lot of people feel that the only way long-term system change is going to happen in Baltimore is if you get more people involved.”
Washington also knows Ramos, and even supported her when she ran previously in the 12th District. But because all of Kane’s work has been at the grass-roots level, Washington believes Kane can help create a new order in the city.
“He has the right profile when it comes to being someone who is able to work within the system but also someone who is able to stand up to challenge it,” Washington said.
Despite being big-time endorsers on opposite sides of a spirited city council race, neither Washington nor McIntosh view the race as a proxy fight — though they have been on opposite sides in key elections before, including in 2018, when Washington, then a state delegate, ousted longtime Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D).
“Sen. Washington and I haven’t even talked about the fact that we’ve endorsed two different people,” McIntosh said. “She certainly understands why I endorsed who I did and I understand why she endorsed who she did.”