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Russell A. Neverdon Sr. (File photo)

Neverdon faces stiff challenges before election

A Baltimore criminal defense attorney’s quest to become the city’s top prosecutor took the next step Monday with the delivery of a petition containing nearly 6,000 signatures.

But Russell A. Neverdon Sr. will have to clear a number of additional hurdles, including the verification of those signatures delivered to the Baltimore City Board of Elections, if he intends to challenge and defeat Democratic nominee Marilyn J. Mosby.

“To say he has an uphill battle is an understatement,” said Andrew I. Alperstein, a politically active Baltimore criminal defense attorney.

Neverdon is seeking to become the next Baltimore City state’s attorney as an independent candidate after deciding earlier this year to not run in the Democratic primary against Mosby and one-term incumbent Gregg L. Bernstein.

“I didn’t want it to be a race about party affiliation or about gender,” Neverdon said Monday. “This race should be about the issues and what are the solutions.”

Neverdon said that running as an independent would allow him to focus on issues of violence and recidivism in the city.

Armstead B.C. Jones, director of elections for the Baltimore City Board of Elections, said Nerverdon’s run as an independent would be the first such race that he could remember in his more than 20 years at the board.

Neverdon’s first hurdle will be to get the more than 4,100 verified signatures he needs to secure his place on the ballot.

To that end, Neverdon said he collected more than 6,000 signatures at the same time he was going door-to-door campaigning.

“(Collecting signatures) became part of the campaign as I was explaining my platform and getting hit with the tough questions,” Neverdon said.

The final number turned in may not be enough to overcome rejection rates for hand-collected signatures that often equal 40 to 50 percent of the total number collected.

The board has 20 days to verify the signatures.

If Neverdon is successful, he’ll then have to convince voters, many of whom may have already voted for Mosby, to switch allegiances.

And while Neverdon had decided to avoid a primary election based on party affiliation, he’ll be running as an independent in a city where more than 90 percent of the registered voters are Democrats and Republicans are outnumbered by a margin of nearly 10 to 1.

Gender will also likely play a role. Some observers see Mosby enjoying support among black women voters in much the same way that former city State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy did before Bernstein defeated her in 2010.

“This is not about gender and can’t be about gender,” said Neverdon. “This has to be a campaign about who is the most qualified.”

And then there’s the money.

Mosby, who was once the underfunded upstart challenger to Bernstein, now finds herself in the enviable position of being the leading candidate if Neverdon makes it on the ballot. There is no Republican on the November ballot.

As of June, when the most recent campaign finance reports were filed, Mosby reported having more than $44,000 cash on hand compared to Neverdon’s $5,329. Her win in the primary positions her well for raising additional money if needed.

“Those of us who are immersed in politics know that it’s easier to raise money by showing money,” Alperstein said. “Money follows money.”