Baltimore City Council president race: Zeke Cohen tops incumbent Nick Mosby, challenger Shannon Sneed in fundraising

Baltimore City Council president race: Zeke Cohen tops incumbent Nick Mosby, challenger Shannon Sneed in fundraising

Baltimore Councilman Zeke Cohen outraised his opponents in the race for city council president, besting incumbent President Nick Mosby and challenger Shannon Sneed, campaign finance reports filed this week showed.

Cohen emerged at the top of the heap with $371,139 raised in 2023. The reports, which were due Wednesday, span about one year. That gives Cohen, who lives in the city’s 1st District in South Baltimore, $532,233 on hand as his campaign enters the run-up to the May 14 primary election.

Mosby, a former state delegate and councilman who has served as president since 2020, raised $168,735, according to his campaign finance report, which was filed delinquently on Thursday. Mosby, who entered 2023 with just $14,500 on hand, now has $183,274 available to finance his reelection bid.

Sneed, a former councilwoman who previously ran for council president in 2020, has $169,281 on hand, according to her filing. That pot includes a mix of small-dollar donations raised by Sneed and cash from Baltimore’s Fair Election Fund. The city’s public campaign financing option was established via a ballot question passed in 2018 in hopes of reducing the role of large contributions in the election process.

Sneed’s campaign said she is still awaiting several public payments which will bring her cash balance to $233,363.

All three candidates vying for the council presidency are Democrats. In Baltimore, where Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans, the Democratic primary typically decides political races. The council president’s salary was $135,093 in 2023.

Cohen, a sophomore councilman who has represented Canton, Fells Point and Highlandtown since 2016, received about $18,000 from area unions, including maximum $6,000 donations from the International Union of Operating Engineers and Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 486. The Baltimore Fire Fighters Local 734, which represents the city’s rank and file firefighters, gave $3,500. IBEW PAC Voluntary Fund, funded by electrical workers, contributed $5,000.

Unite Here, a national PAC that contributes to candidates who support labor rights, gave Cohen a $6,000 donation.

Also donating the maximum to Cohen were Ephrem Abebe, founder of restaurant Ekiben, Giovanni Marcantoni, CEO of Volo Sports, and Canton Port Services. Rex Wheeler, president of Canton Port Services, gave $5,000.

Cohen’s report showed he spent $210,656 on his campaign in 2023.

While Cohen proved his fundraising prowess, it was Mosby who most drastically improved his financial position in the race. The Reservoir Hill resident said in a news release Thursday that he did not begin fundraising for the campaign until one month ago despite announcing his candidacy in March.

Mosby collected maximum donations from several politically connected donors including restaurateur Alex Smith, Smith’s wife Christina Ghani, Mark Sapperstein of 28 Walker Development and MCB Property Services. P. David Bramble, head of MCB Real Estate, gave Mosby $2,000.

MCB was selected to renovate Baltimore’s beleaguered Harborplace. Four new buildings, two of them apartment towers, surrounded by a reworked Inner Harbor promenade, a large new park and realigned roadways are planned. The company is still awaiting city zoning changes needed to clear the way for the ambitious project. The council is due to hold a hearing on the issue in February.

Mosby was the recipient of several donations from current or former city officeholders. Former Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young gave $1,000 while state Sen. Antonio Hayes gave $2,500. Former mayor and current mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon gave $250.

Mosby’s report said he spent no money on the race in 2023 despite his fundraising effort. In his news release, the council president thanked those who donated.

“These are folks who, like so many in our city, are making ends meet on a tight budget, or investing capital to grow their vision and grow our amazing city,” he said.

Sneed, who ran on a slate with now-Mayor Brandon Scott during her 2020 bid for office, this time took advantage of public campaign financing. To qualify for public funding in the council president race, Sneed was required to solicit contributions from 250 city residents totaling at least $15,000. Contributions could not be more than $150.

Sneed received $150 contributions from Paris Bienert, a Democrat who challenged Cohen in 2020 for his council seat, Shantay Jackson, the city’s former director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and Caylin Young, a state delegate and deputy director of the city’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights.

Sneed also received a $100 from Kimberly Klacik, a former Republican congressional candidate and television pundit with national notoriety.

Sneed’s report listed only $281 in expenditures on the campaign.

Kevin Gillogly, Sneed’s campaign manager, encouraged voters who supported public campaign financing when it was approved in 2018 to consider donating small amounts to Sneed in support of a change in campaign finance culture.

“Shannon is trying to break the pay-to-play culture in Baltimore,” he said.

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