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Leading candidates in Baltimore mayoral race spend $1.5M+ in final campaign push

Leading candidates in Baltimore mayoral race spend $1.5M+ in final campaign push

The leading candidates for Baltimore mayor collectively spent more than $1.5 million in the last month, primarily on television and radio advertising, as they made their final push ahead of the May 14 primary.

That spending, as well as ongoing fundraising efforts, were detailed in campaign finance reports filed late Friday. According to the reports, Mayor Brandon Scott’s campaign has paid out $788,200 since early April, most for advertising. Scott, who has led in fundraising efforts throughout the campaign raised an additional $331,000 over that same span, leaving him with $449,900 to spend in the final days of the race.

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, Scott’s chief rival, spent $506,500 during that same time period, mostly on advertising. Dixon has $110,000 on hand after raising $119,400 in the last month.

Dixon, the city’s mayor from 2007 to 2010, is hoping to unseat Scott who has served in the post since 2020. The pair, both Democrats, also face businessman Bob Wallace, who has trailed in polling and fundraising efforts. Running a largely self-funded campaign, Wallace, a Democrat who ran in 2020 as an independent, raised just $28,900 in the last month. His report shows he’s all but stopped spending in the race. He reported $23,700 in expenditures.

Until this week, the field for mayor also included Thiru Vignarajah, a former prosecutor who was making his second bid for the office. On Wednesday, Vignarajah, a Democrat, withdrew from the race, throwing his support behind Dixon. The last-minute exit, which came too late to remove his name from the ballot, followed a blitz of spending by the candidate. Vignarajah, whose campaign has been bolstered by public campaign financing, ran advertisements through the end of his campaign and reported $191,400 in spending since April 3. As of last week, he had a cash balance of $522,226, all of which must be returned to Baltimore under the terms of the city’s public campaign financing law.

The spending frenzy by the entire field has been evident on the TV screens of residents across the region. Scott, who got off to a slow start with advertising, has been airing an ad that touts his record on crime and recreation centers while emphasizing Dixon’s criminal past. The former mayor resigned in 2010 after she was found guilty of embezzlement.

Dixon’s ads have promoted her relationship with Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates who endorsed her shortly before the spots started running in early April. Bates explains in the ad that he needs a “partner” in City Hall, an area where he has accused Scott of failing.

Vignarajah’s TV ads argued city voters should not have to choose between “corruption” in Dixon and “incompetence” in Scott. “Thiru never stopped fighting for us,” one of his supporters said in the ad. He pulled down the ads Wednesday following his withdrawal.

Spending in the race has been supplemented by several political action committees. The Better Baltimore PAC, a pro-Dixon group financed by Sinclair Broadcast Group chairman and Baltimore Sun co-owner David Smith and real estate mogul John Luetkemeyer, aired ads attacking Scott for much of March, but pulled the spots in April. Reports filed this week and last show the PAC has bought more airtime for the spot which deems Scott a “nice guy, bad mayor.” The group spent $55,800 to buy airtime for the ad on Monday. Another $37,100 was spent on a radio ad favorable to Dixon.

Records show $155,000 in contributions to the PAC since early April — $50,000 from Smith, $50,000 from Luetkemeyer, and $50,000 from Alex Smith, David Smith’s nephew and the owner of Atlas Restaurant Group. To date, Luetkemeyer has put $350,000 into the PAC. David Smith has given $250,000, while Alex Smith has contributed $100,000.

Baltimore Forward, a PAC organized in support of Scott, reported raising $161,000, entirely from organized labor. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) both contributed $50,000. Other donors included Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 and Local 32BJ, Baltimore Fire Fighters PAC and Baltimore Fire Officers. All of the contributing groups endorsed Scott.

Baltimore Forward paid $60,000 to a Washington, D.C., group that specializes in voter outreach and spent $50,000 for online advertising, reports show.

While campaigns have transitioned to a spending focus in the final days of the mayoral race, fundraising has continued. Scott received maximum $6,000 donations from 13 donors including the Baltimore Teachers Union, SEIU locals 500 and 32BJ and Maryland State Sen. Arthur Ellis of Charles County. Ellis was a guest in the city’s suite at M&T Bank Stadium last year. Also contributing the maximum were Chris Billak and EJ Solimine of Spiniello Companies. Spiniello has had numerous sewer repair contracts with Baltimore.

Dixon’s campaign received maximum $6,000 donations from Universal Towing, former Baltimore County Councilmember Cathy Bevins and a group called PSH LLC, listed at 25 W. 54th St. in Baltimore. Baltimore has no 54th Street. The campaign also received a $1,000 donation from former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and $4,600 from Malik Stuckey of Universal Towing. Baltimore’s spending board terminated a city’s contract with Universal Towing in 2021 after a report from the city’s inspector general found the group violated the terms of its contract.

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