BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- City Hall stunner. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced she will not seek re-election. The mayor says her decision is in the best interest of the city she loves.
The announcement dramatically shakes up the 2016 mayoral race, which has already attracted several big name candidates.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren explains why she will not seek another term.
It was an emotional and tough announcement for the mayor to make. She says she's been thinking about this decision for the past two months.
It's not over for her. She still plans to lead the city through many challenges, including the Freddie Gray trials.
"As I prepared to engage in a vigorous mayoral campaign and participated in planning meetings with my campaign team and volunteers, 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," 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."
WJZ caught up with the mayor at her first public event since announcing she will not seek re-election, where she drew plenty of attention.
"It has been an overwhelming day for me; a lot of calls of support, especially from elected officials who understand what it means to be in this role. A lot of shock, a lot of surprise, but also a lot of understanding," the mayor said.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made the stunning announcement early Friday.
"I have chosen to govern rather than to campaign, and I hope the public sees it for that," said Rawlings-Blake.
The past few months have been the toughest of her career, as she faced criticism for her response to the riots after Freddie Gray's death and a skyrocketing murder rate.
"This is a tough time. Even those who lived through the riots in the '60s understand the fragility of the times that we face--not just here in Baltimore, but all over the country," the mayor said.
Rawlings-Blake was once a rising political star—the youngest ever elected to Baltimore City Council, continuing her father's political dynasty.
"I don't remember many smiles. And nobody commented on it. He was serious about his job, and so am I," she said.
She headed the U.S. Conference of Mayors and was secretary of the Democratic National Committee.
"I have not asked anyone to pack their bags," said Rawlings-Blake when first taking office.
Taking over after Sheila Dixon left office in scandal, Rawlings-Blake drew praise for a smooth transition, her handling of Snowmageddon and fire and police pension crises.
"When I came into office, the city was in turmoil. People had lost hope and faith in city government," the mayor said.
WATCH HER FULL ANNOUNCEMENT:
The mayor discussed her achievements in office, including reducing property taxes, reducing unemployment and teen pregnancies by a third, attacking blight, earning the city's highest bond rating, investing in repairing police relations with the community and securing more than $1 billion in school construction.
She says she's confident she could have won re-election.
"Polls didn't matter to me, I have a track record," she said. "And I knew that I have more money in the bank than anybody that's running against me."
Her early campaign was flushed with cash and well organized.
"Some of you started helping me campaign many years ago and others only started more recently, but I consider each of you to be a good friend. I have greatly enjoyed our shared interest for growing Baltimore as we work toward the future. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I will spend the remaining 15 months of my term as Mayor continuing to be focused on the work that remains,' she said in a statement.
In the end, for her, this came down to a personal choice, not politics.
"As I think about my daughter, having more time to spend with her and my husband, it was important to me," Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake will keep her post as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. She will continue to be Baltimore's mayor for the next 15 months.
"Let me clear that business of government will continue and I will continue to work to grow Baltimore. I love this City, and I pledge to work for this City's future, both during my remaining time as mayor and beyond," she said.
Her campaign re-election headquarters had been scheduled to open Saturday, Sept. 12.
"The last thing I want is for every one of the decisions that I make moving forward at a time where the city needs me the most to be questioned in the context of a political campaign," she said.
Eight Democrats have announced that they will be running for the mayor's seat in 2016, including former Mayor Sheila Dixon, Maryland Senator Catherine Pugh and City Councilman Carl Stokes.
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