Four political newcomers seek West Baltimore Council seat
James Torrence leads in fundraising among the Democratic Party candidates, who all have things to say about the district where the Uprising began in 2015
Above: Men and A Mural: Penn-North in Baltimore’s 7th District. (Jennifer Bishop)
Unions and the local Democratic establishment are coalescing around James Torrence in the race to represent the City Council’s 7th District, which covers the heart of West Baltimore.
Torrence, a University of Baltimore-educated lawyer who works on policy for City Schools, is one of four political rookies seeking the seat being vacated by Leon F. Pinkett III, who is running for City Council president.
The district includes Medfield, a slice of Hampden, Woodberry, Reservoir Hill, Mondawmin, Ashburton, Hanlon-Longwood, Penn North and much of West North Avenue, parts of which were the site of the 2015 Uprising following the death in-police-custody of Freddie Gray.
Torrence leads Brian Sims, Tori Rose and Rodney Hudson in endorsements and fundraising, and is on the “Baltimore City Forward Slate” headed by City Council President Brandon Scott.
He reported $30,497 on hand last month, more than this week’s total reported by Sims ($8,543) and Rose ($1,344). Hudson reported $957 on hand.
Michael Ter Avest has dropped out of the race, but still appears on the ballot. Yesterday he posted a picture of his ballot with the Torrence circle filled in.
A Baltimore native raised in public housing who now lives in Ashburton, James Torrence says his top commitment is to fight for systemic change in city government.
Among his other priorities are community-oriented development, improved transit to grocery stores, renovating school buildings and greater support for citizens returning from incarceration.
He has been endorsed by the Baltimore Teachers Union, Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, Bikemore, Jews United for Justice and other groups.
Much of the money he’s raised has gone to Tidemore Group and Martin-Lauer Associates for consulting and fundraising.
Torrence’s top contributors include:
• State Sen. Antonio Hayes ($6,000).
• Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 486 PAC ($6,000).
• Kimsink Enterprises owned by Myoung Ouk Kim of Club Paradise ($2,000).
• State Sen. Malcolm Augustine of Prince George’s County ($1,000).
• Retired City Schools administrator Linda Eberhart ($1,750).
City Council members Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey and John Bullock, as well as state delegates Maggie McIntosh and Melissa Wells have contributed to Torrence in smaller amounts.
Tori Rose, campaigning hard, has raised more than $24,000 during the campaign and spent the vast majority of it – about 95%.
Rose worked for the Social Security Administration and founded the nonprofit “We Read. We Lead,” which teaches literacy and other life skills to adults.
Especially involved in issues involving women and children, mental health, domestic violence, jobs and homelessness, she has been endorsed by Progressive Maryland, the Working Families Party and the Sierra Club.
“It is TIME for progressive policies!” she writes on her campaign website. “It is time for us to focus on people-centered policies that will actually help our working families grow, and will allow our more vulnerable families to find sustainability.”
Rose’s top contributors:
• Josephine Harris-Lawrence of addiction recovery center BNJ Health Services ($2,000).
• J. Pope Consulting, owned by Jeremiah Bryan Pope of Silver Spring ($1,030 in-kind).
• Monica Cooper of Baltimore City Recreation & Parks ($1,000).
Torrence’s fundraising competitor is Brian Sims, who works in healthcare policy for the Maryland Hospital Association. Sims had raised $27,400 as of last month and reports raising another $6,000 since then.
He supports increased funding for the Office of the Inspector General, incentives for homeowners and the use of an equity lens in policy analysis.
He calls on the city to rehab the thousands of vacant properties that plague the 7th District into affordable housing.
“Lack of stable housing perpetually rises to the top of factors impacting the health and outcomes of individuals,” he says.
Sims’ contributors include developers and healthcare lobbyists:
• David Bramble of MCB Real Estate, which is trying to build on the Madison Park North site in Reservoir Hill ($2,500).
• Katherine Jennings, who tore down the historic stone houses in Woodberry last year and is building an apartment complex at nearby Television Hill ($2,000).
• Developers Douglas Schmidt and Seawall Development ($250 each).
• Seth Erlin, founder of Chesapeake Apothecary, the largest medical marijuana dispenser in southern Maryland ($1,500).
• Maurice Reid, an emergency care specialist in Bel Air ($2,500).
• Friends of Bill Cole ($1,000). The ex-Baltimore Councilman is now a partner at an economic development group headed by former Howard County executive Ken Ulman.
• Bruce Bereano, Annapolis lobbyist for Sims’ employer, the Maryland Hospital Association ($300).
• Peter Baron, former legislative director for the Maryland Hospital Association ($250).
• Himself and his family ($3,301).
FOP-endorsed English Teacher
Rodney Hudson is a former U.S. Army paratrooper, high school English teacher and a faith leader in the United Methodist Church.
He says the most pressing problems in the district include too many liquor stores and abandoned houses, under-policing along Pennsylvania Avenue and other neighborhoods, and poor city services.
“Our citizens are paying high taxes, but our sewage and and infrastructure through the 7th District seem to be stagnant and inadequate,” he says.
Hudson has been endorsed by the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police. He reported raising $3,476 in the only report he’s filed during the campaign, covering January through April.
In that time he spent $2,518, leaving him with less than $1,000 on hand. Persons sharing the last name “Hudson” contributed more than half of what he raised – $2,050.
Curiously, Hudson reports alternating loans to his campaign committee with payments to himself. He loaned the committee $430 in January and March, then reports paying himself $100 a month under “salaries and other compensation” between January and April.
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