Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Marilyn Mosby
Marilyn J. Mosby (File photo)

Personal approach helped Mosby campaign

Challenger’s tactics in SAO primary focused on interaction, social media

As the relatives of Tyrone West discussed Monday their wrongful death lawsuit against Baltimore police officers, they directed most of their anger to a man who was not even named as a defendant in the case.

“Gregg Bernstein must go!” said Tawanda Jones, West’s sister, referring to the state’s attorney and his decision not to bring charges against the officers following an investigation of the fatal incident.

The West family’s anger went to a “culture of distrust” between prosecutors and community that Marilyn J. Mosby successfully argued she would repair if elected the city’s top prosecutor. Mosby, 34, defeated Bernstein in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election, winning just under 55 percent of the more than 60,000 votes cast.

“We had a vision for how we wanted to change the city,” Mosby said Wednesday, operating on less than three hours of sleep. “The message clearly resonated with a lot of folks.”

Mosby described Tuesday night “somewhat surreal.” She said spoke on election night with Bernstein, who congratulated her and wished her good luck in the general election.

A spokesman for Bernstein said he would not be speaking to reporters Wednesday, nor would his campaign be issuing any statements.

Campaign finance reports filed earlier this month showed the Bernstein campaign with more than six times the amount of cash on hand than Mosby’s had. But Mosby said she knew going into the race she was not going to raise more than Bernstein.

“Our goal was to raise enough to get my message out,” she said.

That message included pledges to go after repeat, violent offenders and pushing to ensure they receive as harsh a sentence as possible; to create a victim/witness services unit to help restore the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system; and to reduce the recidivism rate of defendants, particularly young drug offenders.

“People want to feel safe in their community,” she said.

Mosby got her message out with a “smart campaign” based heavily on personal interactions, social media and targeted phone banks and emails, according to Larry S. Gibson, a University of Maryland law professor who endorsed Mosby.

The result was a Mosby campaign largely “invisible” to Bernstein, said Gibson, who added he was not criticizing the Bernstein campaign because it operated as incumbent campaigns typically do.

“I’m not sure whether the vote was an anti-Bernstein vote as it was a lot of people just responded to a well-run campaign,” Gibson said. “She’s an extraordinarily talented person and, as one got to know her, learned she was not a Johnny-come-lately to concerns about public safety.”

Mosby will face Russell A. Neverdon Sr. in November’s general election. Mosby said her campaign would not change in the months to come, while Neverdon, a criminal defense lawyer, said Wednesday his campaign approach also would remain the same now that he knows his opponent.

“Our focus is on the citizens and what their needs are,” said Neverdon. “It’s about putting them before politics and prestige.”

Neverdon added that he had “heard complaints about the incumbent” as he campaigned.

“The citizens spoke,” he said of Tuesday’s election results. “They wanted a change. They wanted an alternative.”

J. Wyndal Gordon, a frequent Bernstein critic, agreed.

“The Bernstein administration has caused a lot of pain in this town,” he said Wednesday. “The first step in the healing process is voting him out of office.”

Gordon, a Baltimore solo practitioner who has donated to Neverdon’s campaign, filed suit earlier this month against Bernstein and the state’s attorney’s office alleging it has a policy of “race-based selective prosecutions violating the rights of African American victims.” Gordon said Wednesday he had “no immediate plans” to abandon the lawsuit, noting the case addresses past policies.

“We’re hopeful some policies and practices will no longer be an issue,” he said.

As for the incumbent, Andrew I. Alperstein, a Baltimore criminal defense attorney, said Bernstein “did a lot” to change the prosecutor’s office. Bernstein moved his staff into one office building, improving office communication, and the quality of discovery from prosecutors has become better and more complete, according to Alperstein, of Alperstein & Diener P.A.

“It’s made things move a little more smoothly,” he said.