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Sheila Dixon kicks off campaign to regain Baltimore mayor's office: 'Redemption makes you even stronger'

Talia Richman, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- If Arthur "Squeaky" Kirk needs help at his Southwest Baltimore rec center, he knows who to call. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon always shows up when Kirk needs someone to speak at adult education classes or collect donations around Christmas-time.

Dozens of people packed into that recreation center on Saturday as Dixon formally launched her campaign to become mayor once again. Like Kirk, supporter after supporter could point to a time Dixon came through for them or their mother or their grandmother.

"The city needs her back in there," Kirk said. "We need the person who is going to understand us."

Dixon opened her kickoff speech by offering thanks and an apology. Almost a decade ago, Dixon was found guilty of embezzling gift cards meant for the poor. As part of a plea agreement, she resigned as mayor and was on probation for four years, during which time she could not seek office.

She said she knows the next mayor must "earn the trust of Baltimoreans." The election is unfolding in the shadow of a more recent corruption scandal that forced former Mayor Catherine Pugh out of City Hall and led to a federal indictment.

Dixon thinks she's the one to do that, tapping into her experience and reputation among some residents as a pragmatic, focused leader who oversaw a decline in the homicide rate and violent crime during her tenure from 2007 to 2010.

 

"I simply don't see anyone in this race with a track record of leadership, vision for our future or work ethic I will bring to the office of mayor," she said to applause. "I am sorry for the mistakes I made that brought my term to an end. It is because I had to leave office that I will work three times as hard ... it is because I had to leave office that I will greet each day with a sense of urgency, holding myself and others accountable.

"I believe that redemption makes you even stronger."

Dixon is jumping into a crowded April 28 Democratic primary, going up against Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith, state Sen. Mary Washington and others.

In 2016, Dixon narrowly lost a mayoral primary to then-state Sen. Pugh. She and her supporters feel this time will be different: "There is a path," Dixon said.

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