Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon launched her latest bid to return to City Hall on Thursday, with a small group of supporters at Gold Street Community Park — and an apology.
Dixon, 69, was the first female mayor of the city and served from 2007 to 2010, when she resigned as part of a plea agreement in a perjury case. Dixon was earlier convicted by a city jury of embezzling donated gift cards.
“It’s important that people know that a mistake was made, I suffered, I paid,” Dixon said Thursday, standing in front of a small crowd of supporters. “And I would like for them to have a heart and trust and realize that people change and they learn from their mistakes. And I’ve done all of that. And I’ve done things over the years, since then, to show my commitment to the city.”
Dixon served four years of probation and completed community service after her conviction.
She said Thursday that she continued to stay involved in the community and regularly hears from residents who need help with issues in their neighborhoods.
If elected, she promised to bring more action and accountability to city agencies.
“I look at city government today and I don’t recognize it anymore,” Dixon said. “…I see first-hand that it’s letting people down daily.”
As top issues, Dixon said she would work to decrease crime so residents feel safe, open up city government and increase transparency, and improve city schools, which she said do not perform to the level of their funding.
Dixon said the city should be home to more charter schools to increase school choice and the school board should be more accountable to the mayor.
Her candidacy sets up a rematch with Mayor Brandon Scott, who plans to seek a second term in office.
Dixon finished second to Scott in the 2020 Democratic primary, 3,145 votes behind the eventual mayor.
It was the second cycle in a row in which she sought redemption at the ballot box.
Dixon lost the 2016 Democratic primary to Catherine Pugh by 2,408 votes; following a write-in campaign, Dixon got 22% of the vote in the general election, which Pugh won.
Dixon’s campaign this year will be bolstered by a Super PAC formed earlier this summer.
The Better Baltimore PAC formed on July 14, and lists Dixon as the only candidate it’s currently supporting.
Tyler Senecharles, an account manager with Adeo Advocacy, is the chair, and Dewon Onre Lawrence, an Army veteran who worked on Gov. Wes Moore’s campaign, is listed as treasurer.
Dixon’s financial history is bound to be an issue in the campaign.
In late August, two former Baltimore city solicitors and Scott supporters, Jim Shea and Ralph Tyler, sent a letter to the PAC, calling on them to disclose their donors and donations in real time.
“Ms. Dixon has a well-documented and deeply troubling history of inappropriate financial activities,” the solicitors wrote, noting that she faced more substantial criminal charges involving a prominent real estate developer at the time of her plea. “…In light of Ms. Dixon’s past, the voters of Baltimore are entitled to know now who is financing her candidacy.”
They did not receive a response to their letter.
The PAC has not yet filed any disclosures with the State Board of Elections, indicating it hasn’t spent more than $10,000.
Once the PAC passes that spending threshold, it must report spending and contribution information within 48 hours.
Dixon was asked at a Thursday press conference why voters should put their trust in her.
“They can trust me. I’m the most transparent person, the most trustworthy person,” Dixon said. “Because when you make a mistake, when you go to your god, and you realize things you have to do, you do everything to improve upon yourself. That’s a daily job you have to do. And everybody should do that.”
Supporters at Thursday’s event included Baltimore Clerk of the Circuit Court Xavier Conaway (D), Baltimore Register of Wills Belinda Conaway (D), former City Councilmember Helen Holton (D) and Robin Boston, a member of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee.
The 2024 mayor primary election is scheduled for May 14.
The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 9.