By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thiru Vignarajah, a former city and federal prosecutor who once served as Maryland’s deputy attorney general, filed Tuesday to run as a Democrat for Baltimore City State’s Attorney.

Vignarajah, a high-profile attorney who ran unsuccessfully for state’s attorney in 2018 and mayor in 2020, joins Democrats Ivan Bates and Roya Hanna, who have already filed to run. Hanna indicated she will run as an independent.

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The trio would be potential challengers to incumbent State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has yet to file for reelection.

The addition of Vignarajah sets up a similar field as 2018, when Mosby received 49.4% of the vote and defeated Bates (28.1%) and Vignarajah (22.5%).

Vignarajah’s campaign announcement cited Baltimore’s continuing struggles with violent crime and the uncertainty surrounding the political of future of Mosby, who is set to be tried in May on federal charges.

“In the last 7 years, 2400 victims have been murdered, we have 500 fewer police, and many have lost faith that things can get better. If any American city is facing a crisis worse than ours–a record-shattering crime crisis and a crisis of confidence–I am unaware of it,” he said in a statement. “I have devoted my life to public service, to fighting crime as a federal and city prosecutor, and I simply can’ watch this human catastrophe from the sideline when I know I can do something to stop it.”

Bates said Tuesday he welcomes additional candidates to the field, but he views himself as the front-runner.

“My focus is on crime. My focus is on my prosecution plan. Ms. Mosby has to deal with her personal issues and I can only pray for her and her family,” Bates said. “The citizens don’t want leadership that doesn’t know what they want to do. I’ve run for one office and one office only.”

Vignarajah, the son of two Baltimore City public schools teachers, is a Woodlawn High graduate who attended undergrad at Yale University before receiving his law degree from Harvard Law School. During his time in law school, he was president of the Harvard Law Review and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

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After cutting his teeth as a federal prosecutor, Vignarajah became chief of major investigations for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, and in 2015 he was appointed deputy attorney general of Maryland. Afterward, he went into private practice as a litigation partner for the DLA Piper law firm.

More recently, Vignarajah has made public appearances advocating for the rights of the owners of bars and strip clubs located on “The Block,” challenging an effort to impose a curfew on those establishments’ hours of operation.

Vignarajah’s campaign announcement touted an endorsement from Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Chief and former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who called Vignarajah the “gold standard.”

“Never has a singular name been mentioned to me more often by homicide and other violent crime detectives than Mr. Vignarajah,” Davis said in part. “Never have I seen a prosecutor held in such high esteem by detectives working to bring justice to victims and their families. And never have I so often heard tales of a singular person orchestrating collaborative prosecutorial strategies; ones that carefully dissect sophisticated crime organizations and hold them accountable for the harm they have caused our most vulnerable communities.”

It remains unclear whether Mosby will run for another term as state’s attorney. She has yet to file for reelection, and, if convicted of federal perjury and false statement charges at trial, she could be ineligible to hold public office.

Political scientist Dr. Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs, said Tuesday that Mosby’s name recognition is critical, but there is political vulnerability.

“She’s the incumbent. She has advantages. She has a strong base,” Hartley said. “If her base of support erodes at all over the last four years over those two issues (violent crime and indictment), then this could be a really strong and challenging race.”

When reached for comment Monday, a spokesperson for Mosby declined comment, saying she’s “focused on the job right now.”

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The deadline to file to run for office is April 15 for the July 19 primary.

Paul Gessler