Panel nominates Stokes to fill 12th District City Council seat

February 26, 2010|By Brent Jones and Julie Scharper

Former Baltimore councilman and mayoral candidate Carl Stokes was nominated by a City Council committee Thursday evening to fill a vacant seat in the 12th District, which virtually guarantees that he will be sworn in to the position at the next council meeting.

The East Baltimore seat was vacated when Bernard C. "Jack" Young became council president, replacing Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake.

Stokes, 59, an East Baltimore native who was raised in the Latrobe Homes, served on the council from 1987 until 1995. He launched an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 1999, losing in the Democratic primary to Martin O'Malley.

A resident of lower Charles Village, he is the co-founder and chief operating officer of East Baltimore's Bluford Drew Jemison Math Science Technology Academy. If he is elected to the council, he will scale back his hours at the school, Stokes said. Stokes also served a stint on the city school board.

In addition to serving constituents, his priority on the council will be the city's financial crisis, he said in an interview last night. The $127 million deficit will require a "systemic review and restructuring of what we do and how we do it," he said.

Stokes led the council's redistricting efforts in 1991, said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, adding that the reconfiguration "lasted well beyond his tenure."

Councilman James B. Kraft, who worked on Stokes' mayoral campaign in 1999, said his familiarity with City Hall was considered an asset by council members. Stokes was among the favorites to win the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1999, but his campaign derailed after a series of miscues, including driving with a suspended license, being hit with a $13,800 federal tax lien during his council tenure and falsely claiming a Loyola College degree in English on his campaign literature.

"I have a lot of faith and confidence in him. It was not a difficult choice for me at all," Kraft said. "Because of the depth of his experience, that really helped him at this particular time. The changes we've had in government recently and the changes that we're facing in the budget, he'll be able to step right in."

The 10-person committee voted to send Stokes' nomination to the full council March 8. If the council approves his nomination, he will immediately be sworn in by Rawlings-Blake. The council had heard proposals from seven candidates on Tuesday.

Councilwoman Belinda K. Conaway's nomination of Aaron Keith Wilkes, president of the Darley Park Community Association, was not seconded.

Supporters packed Tuesday's candidates forum for another contender, longtime East Baltimore activist Ertha Harris. More than 25 friends and supporters wrote letters to the council in support of Harris, who had worked closely with the late activist and councilwoman Bea Gaddy.

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