Phillip Westry may be the City Council candidate most likely to topple an incumbent in the June 2 Democratic Party primary, as voters grow frustrated with one of the mayor’s closest allies, the low-profile Robert Stokes Sr.
Breaking out of the pack of early challengers to Stokes, Westry has spent nearly six times as much as the incumbent and has raised more than 2½ times what Stokes has.
Various unions and progressive groups, including Bikemore, Progressive Maryland, Sierra Club and AFL-CIO Metro Baltimore Council, have endorsed the public interest lawyer who has helped expunge criminal records and served clients facing housing issues.
Many of those unions have contributed thousands to Westry, who reported raising $94,050 since January 2019 and having $32,397 on hand as of last month. Among those contributors:
• Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 486 PAC ($6,000).
• 1199 SEIU NYS Political Action Fund ($4,000).
• Baltimore Washington Construction & Public Employees Laborers, LIUNA ($4,000).
• AFSCME Maryland Council 3 ($2,500).
Westry’s husband and his husband’s family have given several thousand, and Kyle Kaiser, a salesman for Panasonic USA, has given the maximum $6,000.
These groups say they support Westry based on his positions on housing, transit and the environment. In particular, he wants to increase density, cap yearly rent increases and make it easier for community associations to acquire and rehab vacant houses. He supports the creation of a regional transit authority, replacing the state-run Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), and develop rail transportation.
The 12th District covers east and central Baltimore, which includes the Johns Hopkins Medical campus and the city’s north-south corridor from Old Goucher and Station North to Mount Vernon and Oldtown.
$14,525 in one day
A lifelong East Baltimorean and Dunbar High School graduate, Stokes has not campaigned energetically. He reported raising $14,525 in the latest report, covering January through April. (Strangely, each contribution was reported on the same day – March 19.)
While he doesn’t appear to have a campaign website, he paid Omen 1 Solutions, owned by Lovemore Chirombo, $3,000 for web development last year.
He also billed several hundred to his campaign for meals listed as being with website developers, some of which were at restaurants owned by Harbor East’s Alex Smith. (Much of the rest of the councilman’s spending has been on postage, brochures and office supplies.)
Smith gave him $2,500 last year, and two LLCs associated with the Paterakis family (Smith’s mother is a Paterakis) gave $1,500 apiece in March.
Stokes’ largest contribution of the campaign, the maximum $6,000, came from a paving and excavating company owned by Tyrone Carter. Last September, a PAC supporting the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings gave $4,000. Other contributors include:
• TC Entertainment, owner of Penthouse Club Baltimore ($500).
• Howard Perlow of Residential Title & Escrow Company ($1,000).
• Liquor Board attorney J.R. Woolman ($250).
• Developer Carl Struever ($200).
• Apartment builder Zahlco ($500).
Stokes reliably votes for Mayor Jack Young’s priorities, and as the chair of the City Council’s Executive Appointments Committee, never makes a stir. He rarely writes legislation, but perhaps feeling pressure to make news ahead of the primary, he introduced five resolutions earlier this week.
Stokes will likely get a boost from his alliance with Mayor Young, Council Vice President Sharon Middleton and Councilman Eric Costello.
The four created “Baltimore’s 2020 Vision Slate” last month, with $15,000 from Costello and $1,000 from Young. (The slate reported only a few hundred dollars on hand after paying a staffer and a consultant, as well as giving $2,000 back to Costello.)
The vast majority of Dave Heilker’s and Gary Crum’s contributions came from small-dollar donors, with few over $200.
Heilker is a graphic designer who has worked for multiple local Democrats has about $10,400 in the bank, but has contributed nearly the maximum to his own campaign.
Crum reported having $332 on hand after spending about $4,000 and bringing in $1,800.
Mail-in ballots for the June 2 primary are expected to arrive at the homes of registered Democratic voters shortly.
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