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WATCH: Baltimore mayoral candidates debate public safety, other key issues ahead of primary election

Baltimore mayoral candidates debate key issues impacting the city
Baltimore mayoral candidates debate key issues impacting the city 02:55

BALTIMORE - Democratic Baltimore City candidates took the stage on Tuesday to make their case to voters.

WJZ, in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR, heard directly from the top four candidates in the city's mayoral race, who debated at the Schaefer Center for Public Policy at the University of Baltimore.

The debate involved current Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, former mayor Sheila Dixon, former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah and businessman Bob Wallace.

WJZ 's Denise Koch, The Baltimore Banner's Emily Sullivan and WYPR's Tom Hall moderated the question-and-answer format.  


Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 10-1, in Baltimore, so the primary election will likely decide who will occupy the mayor's office for the next four years.

The primary election will be on Tuesday, May 14. Early voting starts on Thursday, May 2. Here's a guide for what you need to know about the election and the races to watch in Baltimore and statewide.

Public safety remains among the top issues in the city's primary election.

"A 20% decline in homicides, a 33% reduction this year—historic numbers," said Scott who touted recent dramatic declines in violent crime.

Dixon pointed to her record more than a decade ago.

"I know how to reduce crime in this city and how to deal with violent crime and quality-of-life crime," Dixon said.

Watch WJZ's Democratic Mayoral Debate 2024 54:11

Challengers Vignarajah and Wallace questioned why the declining violent crime numbers don't match resident perceptions.

"Why are people in so many neighborhoods fleeing for the counties if crime is going so well?" Vignarajah said.

"Crime is an issue in this city. We do not feel safe," Wallace said.

"It was kind of clear the other candidates thought Mayor Scott was the frontrunner because they were all attacking his record, question after question," said Roger Hartley, at the University of Baltimore.

A Goucher College/Baltimore Banner poll shows that Scott holds an eight-point lead over Dixon. 

They both need to go after about 10% of voters who remain uncommitted in the final days, according to Hartley.

"With the undecideds being as high percentage as they are right now, I think every candidate is trying to remind the other candidates where they are on the issues," Hartley said.

Debate topics included affordable housing, education, homelessness and city services.

"These are all promises about what they're going to do," Vignarajah said. "You had your chance. You had years to address these problems and they are no better."

"Everyone on this stage loves this city," Dixon said. "Only one of us has what it takes to turn this city around.

"Allow me to finish the job that we started, that's been producing results every day," Scott said.

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