BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Baltimore's 49th mayor announced on Friday that she will not seek re-election in 2016, calling the campaign a distraction from the critical challenges facing Baltimore in the coming months.
WJZ's Derek Valcourt has the latest.
"I came to the realization that every moment that I spend running for mayor would take away from the urgent responsibilities to the city that I love," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. "Over the next 15 months, my time would be best spent focused on continuing to move the City forward and building upon our progress, without the distraction of campaign politics."
Rawlings-Blake's big announcement comes during a time where Baltimore is dealing with an alarming crime spike and most notably, the upcoming trials for six officers charged in the death of a 25-year-old black man named Freddie Gray.
State Senator Catherine Pugh threw her name into the race for mayor earlier this week. Until now she and other candidates expected to have to challenge the mayor on her record in early primary debates.
Valcourt: "Does this change the dialogue of the campaign itself?
"I think it changes it a little bit," said Pugh. "I was surprised by the announcement because I had spoken to the mayor some weeks ago and she was very concerned about how the city moved forward and gave no indication of not running."
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to leave office in 2010 wants her old back. She echoed fellow candidates in praising Rawlings-Blake for here service to the city.
"She and her family have made many sacrifices and I think she has earned the right to pursue other goals. I pray for the Rawlings-Blake family and for the people of Baltimore," she said.
Dixon spoke early this year to WJZ about jumping back in the political race after being forced to resign after a misdemeanor conviction for using gift cards intended for the needy. Rawlings-Blake filled her seat once she left office in Feb. 2010.
Dixon says the mayor's decision won't change her campaign.
"I'm gonna really stay focused on giving a clear message showing my experience because right now that's what we need, a leader who has experience," she said.
Councilman Carl Stokes tells WJZ he was shocked by the mayor's announcement. He praised her for helping to cut the city's deficit and says he thinks the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots played a role in the mayor's decision.
"I think she looked at the face of what's happening now with those six trials about to come up, with the contention that will be going in a campaign season, and made a tough choice," he said.
Councilman Nick Mosby thanked the mayor for her service on Friday and said that Baltimore needs to move in a new direction, past the scandals and unrest.
"We need new leadership and new energy that can grown our economy, bring peace to our neighborhoods, and fix a broken government," Mosby said.
Mosby has been discussed as a possible candidate for the 2016 mayor seat, although he hasn't officially filed.
Rawlings-Blake says there's plenty of work left to be done in her remaining 15 months in office. She says she will continue her efforts to improve police-community relations and decrease violent crime.
The mayor adds that she plans to continue to fight for City Council's approval of her $136 million investment plan for Recreation Centers for the Baltimore community.
The mayor's decision not to run may open up the door to other potential candidates, including some of the mayor's allies who may have been reluctant to run against her.
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