WASHINGTON (WNEW/AP) — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will not seek re-election, she announced at a last-minute press conference called for Friday morning.
Rawlings-Blake has faced a lot of criticism in the months following the fatal injury that 25-year-old Freddie Gray sustained while in police custody and the unrest in the city that followed his death.
For nearly five hours on the day of Gray’s funeral, as windows were smashed and buildings set aflame across swaths of east and west Baltimore, she was nowhere to be seen. The next day, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Rawlings-Blake did not return his calls for hours as he sought guidance on whether to call in the National Guard.
She was also criticized for the enforcement and length of a citywide curfew she authorized, which was more strictly carried out in poor neighborhoods than in wealthier parts of the majority-black city.
As homicides spiked in July, she fired Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and appointed one of his deputies in the interim.
Rawlings-Blake said she believes she could have won re-election, pointing to her work on the city’s budget and pension system, but wanted to focus more on getting the city through the trials of the six officers who were charged in Gray’s death, rather than on a campaign.
“It was a very difficult decision, but I knew I needed to spend time focused on the city’s future, not my own,” she said, noting she thought about her future throughout the summer as the criminal case against the officers moved forward.
“It’s something that has been a nagging concern for me, and something I’ve prayed about a lot,” she said.
When asked if she had effectively made herself a lame duck, Rawlings-Blake said that was not the case. She said she did not want every decision she made over the next 15 months to be evaluated in the context of a political campaign.
She also says she wants to spend more time with her family, including her daughter who’s about to enter her teen years.
Rawlings-Blake assumed the post in 2010 after her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, stepped down amid scandal. Rawlings-Blake won the 2011 Democratic primary with about 52 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic city. The daughter of a popular state delegate, she worked as a public defender and was the youngest person elected to the City Council at age 25 in 1995.
Her announcement comes just days after State Sen. Catherine Pugh and Councilman Carl Stokes both announced their intentions to run for the mayoral seat. Former Mayor Dixon announced in July that she also plans to run.
And, earlier this week, officials said the city would pay Gray’s family $6.4 million to settle civil claims over his spinal injury and death.
The payment is more than the $5.7 million the city paid in total for 102 court judgments and settlements for alleged police misconduct between 2011 and last fall, according to an investigation by The Baltimore Sun.
After the announcement of the settlement, Rawlings-Blake said it “should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial.”
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