Announcing his fourth run in six years for a citywide office in Baltimore, Thiru Vignarajah knew what pointed questions reporters would ask today, and he had a snappy answer for all of them:
What about the fact that the former deputy attorney general, who has never held elected office, is entering the race for mayor against opponents with years of experience?
“I have years of experience, too. I just don’t have experience being part of a broken system and being part of the problem,” Vignarajah said during a morning news conference, waving a hand toward City Hall.
What about his nearly empty campaign war chest, as evidenced by the report he recently filed saying he has not raised or spent more than $1,000 in the last year?
Spinning it as a positive, Vignarajah explained that he plans to use the city’s public financing option, which multiplies donations as long as the amounts are limited to $150 or less.
“It is going to liberate City Hall for the first time to do what is best for people and not what is best for donors and developers.”
How about the embarrassing headlines that have shadowed Vignarajah’s previous unsuccessful campaigns, including that he was a demanding boss who punished staff members harshly?
“I have made mistakes. I have learned from those mistakes,” he said.
“Sheila’s not perfect, and Brandon’s not perfect, and I’m not perfect,” he added. “But I am the perfect person for this job.”
“This is my army”
That was a reference to his opponents in the race: former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott. Other candidates include businessman Bob Wallace and activist Yolanda Pulley.
Vignarajah failed to capture the Democratic primary nomination for mayor in 2020, losing to Scott, and also unsuccessfully sought the nomination for state’s attorney twice, losing to Marilyn Mosby in 2018 and to Ivan Bates in 2020.
Since that loss, he has been crisscrossing the city to engage in high-profile cases, representing the family of a bat-wielding man who was gunned down by a teenage squeegee worker, residents arrested protesting BGE external gas regulator installations on their homes, an eviction over an unpaid water bill and many more.
Several of those people joined Vignarajah at his campaign announcement.
“This is my army,” he said, gesturing at the group he said will help him reach the mark he must hit to qualify for public financing: $40,000 in donations.
“We cannot be stuck in a choice between corruption and incompetence” – Thiru Vignarajah.
Known for his tough on crime and pro-aerial surveillance plane stands, Vignarajah tried in his remarks to emphasize other issues he will be talking about on the campaign trail, including the plan Scott is pushing to redevelop Baltimore’s tourist waterfront with luxury apartment buildings.
“What they have proposed for Harborplace will not happen if I am mayor,” he said.
But the theme he led off with, and repeated elsewhere in interviews today, was that he represents an alternative to Dixon, who resigned as mayor in 2010 as a result of a corruption scandal, and Scott, whose first term Vignarajah describes as shaky.
“We cannot be stuck in a choice between going backwards and a person who’s in over his head. . . between corruption and incompetence,” he said.
Asked today about the gadfly lawyer’s entrance into the race, Scott was dismissive.
“Mr. Vignarajah is free to run as he always does.”