Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson is attempting to make the leap from protester to politician. Several news outlets are reporting that Mckesson has thrown his name into the race to be mayor of Baltimore. Mckesson became the 13th person to join the crowded Democratic primary. Baltimore is a largely blue city, so the Democratic primary will pretty much determine the next mayor. According to The Baltimore Sun, of the 369,000 registered voters in the city, 288,000 are Democrats, 47,000 are unaffiliated and 30,000 are Republicans.
The riots that rocked Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray damaged current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has decided not to seek another term. Former mayor Sheila Dixon is the front-runner in the race and also riding high in the polls, according to The Sun. Dixon said she didn’t know who Mckesson was and questioned his decision to enter the race less than three months before the election.
“We all want the best for Baltimore,” she said. “There are 84 days left. I’m staying focused.”
Mckesson, a Baltimore native, is a former teacher and administrator who was motivated to become an activist following the Ferguson, Missouri riots. He has gained national prominence as one of the high-profile faces of Black Lives Matter. Mckesson has been interviewed on several national television shows and been courted by presidential candidates. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton described him as a “social media emperor.” (He has 300,000 Twitter followers.) However, Mckesson’s high-profile image has attracted detractors. Some right-wing commentators, such as National Review and FOX News personality Tucker Carlson, have called him a “race hustler.”
Mckesson, 30, told The Sun he wanted to bring a new voice and new methods to the political system.
“Baltimore is a city of promise and possibility,” said Mckesson. “We can’t rely on traditional pathways to politics and the traditional politicians who walk those paths if we want transformational change.”
Radio show host Sean Yoes said Mckesson has an uphill task winning the primary in Baltimore, a city where older Black women have long been a powerful voting bloc.
“If the electorate consisted of celebrities who were politically conscious, then maybe he would have a chance,” Yoes said. “I suspect the vast majority of the most prolific voting bloc in Baltimore City do not know who he is. That’s going to be problematic for him.”
The Washington Post also said that Baltimore voters don’t have a history of electing political outsiders. The last mayor elected who was not a member of the city council was Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore’s first Black mayor. Schmoke was Baltimore State’s Attorney when he won election in 1987.
However, some of Mckesson’s Twitter followers seemed excited about his entry into the race. Twitter user Drread Real wanted to see new blood in politics.
@deray have to start voting all these old white men out of powerful position an get ppl with good morals to run this country
— Drread Real (@DrreadReal) September 30, 2015
Bill Ferguson, a Democratic state senator, also offered his support:
More power to you, @deray, fight hard. Right now, our City deserves everyone’s absolute best.
— Bill Ferguson (@SenBillFerg) February 4, 2016