Zina C. Pierre, the Annapolis mayoral candidate dogged by personal financial problems and questions about her residency, announced Wednesday for the second time in five days that she is quitting the race .
During a news conference, Pierre, a political consultant, attempted to explain her financial problems - including a house that went into foreclosure and several lawsuits from unpaid debts - by saying that she stretched herself too thin as an entrepreneur and a provider for family and friends. She did not take questions.
"Did I make mistakes as a young, fledgling small-business owner, starting my business with more than a dream, with a little bit of money? Yes, I did," said Pierre, 44. "Have I since tried to correct those mistakes, that many of you have seen in the reports? ... Yes, I made those mistakes."
FOR THE RECORD - Recent articles have referred to Zina Pierre, who dropped out of the Annapolis mayor's race this week, as potentially the first black mayor of Annapolis. Pierre could have become the first elected black mayor. In 1981, Alderman John Chambers was acting mayor for several months. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.
Pierre's announcement, which leaves city Democratic leaders with the task of choosing a replacement candidate, was met with protests from supporters who packed a downtown hotel ballroom for the late-afternoon news conference. "Don't quit, Zina!" one woman shouted. The crowd chanted, "Run, Zina, run!"
The city's Democratic Central Committee has scheduled a meeting for Friday evening to select a candidate.
Pierre, appearing both somber and confident, left room for another run.
"We will be back stronger," Pierre said. "We will be back wiser. ... For all the people, you will see me in the streets, you will see me in the public meetings at city council."
Tony Evans, a member of the central committee, commended Pierre.
"I think she went down with flags flying at full staff," Evans said moments after the news conference ended. "She didn't break. She said, 'I made mistakes.' But her spirit is not broken, and like any good politician, she kept the door open for the future."
Josh Cohen, the Anne Arundel County Council member who placed second in the primary with 115 fewer votes than Pierre, released a statement saying that he respected Pierre's decision. "This must be an incredibly difficult time for her personally."
Pierre's victory in a six-way Democratic primary Sept. 15 put her on track to become the city's first African-American mayor. Democratic voters in Annapolis outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. The Democratic candidate will face Republican Dave Cordle, an alderman, and small-business owner Chris Fox, an independent.
Three days after her win, reports surfaced that Pierre's Bowie townhouse was in foreclosure. Additionally, she had written a bad check for a car repair, failed to pay community association fees on her townhouse and paid thousands of dollars in fines for failing to maintain car insurance, among other financial problems.
A spokeswoman announced Friday that she was quitting the race, only to have a new spokeswoman say Saturday that she was staying in.
Questions were also raised over whether Pierre, who claimed her Bowie townhouse as her primary residence in court documents as late as this year, had lived in Annapolis long enough to meet the two-year requirement to run for mayor.
On Wednesday, The Baltimore Sun published an article that raised questions of whether a company that she paid more than $11,000 in campaign funds for advertising was a legitimate business.
Pierre's campaign finance reports listed IQ Communications' address in the 3400 block of Copley Road in Baltimore, a private home whose occupants said they had never heard of the business or Pierre. State records show that an IQ & Associates, in the 4000 block of Cedardale Road in Baltimore, has provided services for such political candidates as former Baltimore City Council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and Del. James W. Hubbard. Attempts to reach Iris Queen, identified as the owner of IQ & Associates, were unsuccessful.
Pierre's spokeswoman declined to comment when questioned Tuesday about the campaign finance reports, but Pierre briefly addressed the issue during the news conference, saying, "Did I pay for robo-calls and political mailings? Yes, I did, by IQ and Associates."
Zastrow Simms, a well-known African-American activist in Annapolis, reacted with sorrow at the announcement.
"I'm destroyed," Simms said. "I'm disheartened. I wish she hadn't quit. The people spoke."