Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, whose leadership was tested after the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man in police custody, triggered days of massive protests and rioting in April, announced Friday she will not seek re-election next year.
Rawlings-Blake emphasized that “it was a very difficult decision” that she has been weighing of the past two months. The mayor said she chose to focus on “moving the city forward” and reform the police department, than campaigning.
“I needed to spend time - the remaining 15 months of my term - and focused on the city's future, not my own,” she said at a news conference. “I’m focus on governance than campaigning at this critical time in our city history. This is a tough time."
Still, the mayor said she had no doubt about winning a second term, amid a crowded field of challengers. Rawlings-Blake boasted of her track record in office, including reducing the unemployment rate by a third and reforming the pension system. She said these accomplishments would have positioned her to victory.
“I haven’t lost an election since middle school. And it’s not that I think I could win. It’s that I had to ask myself the question: At what cost?" she said Friday. "I was determined to leave the city in a better position, so whoever becomes mayor will have the ability to move our city forward.”
The mayor's decision comes there days after her administration settled a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with Gray's family. The 25-year old sustained fatal neck injuries while in police custody. However, according to Rawlings-Blake, the settlement "should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial."
The first trial date in the Gray case is set for Oct. 13, and a judge ruled Thursday that the case would be held in a Baltimore courthouse. The six officers involved are facing charges ranging from reckless endangerment to manslaughter and second-degree murder.
Rawlings-Blake took office in 2010, after the former mayor Sheila Dixon was convicted of misdemeanor embezzlement in 2009 and resigned. She won a full term in 2012. On Friday, she declined to answer questions on whether she would return to politics in the future.
Meanwhile, Dixon, who was sentenced to four years on probation as part of a plea deal and has been an increasingly vocal critic of Rawlings-Blake, has launched a bid to seek the mayoralty again.