The mayor of Baltimore says she will not seek re-election nearly five months after the city erupted in rioting following the death of a man injured in police custody.
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Friday at a news conference that she will not run for mayor again. The announcement comes just days after officials said the city would pay Freddie Gray's family $6.4 million to settle civil claims over his spinal injury.
Rawlings-Blake said she came to her decision after realizing that any campaign preparation would take away from her current responsibilities as mayor.
"Because of that, I have made the decision not to seek re-election," she said. "It was a very difficult decision."
The mayor said the coming days will be a challenge for Baltimore, and she was worried about the perception of campaigning while trying to guide the city through the upcoming issues.
"We need to focus on being one Baltimore," Rawlings-Blake said. "I pledge to be dedicated to the city for the next 15 months. My successor will have the opportunity to move the city forward."
When asked if she was considering running for another office later, she said that wasn't the announcement she was making and reinforced her desire to lead the city through the current problems.
"I love my city," she said. "I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to serve."
Rawlings-Blake decision comes in the same week that several high-profile candidates entered the race to unseat her. Councilman Carl Stokes and state Sen. Catherine Pugh formally announced their candidacy this week, joining former Mayor Sheila Dixon and several other candidates in the race.
Rawlings-Blake has had a difficult year, which has included the police-custody death of Freddie Gray and the riots and unrest that followed. There has also been a significant spike in violent crime in the months that followed as the city has already surpassed the homicide total from all of 2014.
The mayor's announcement brings a halt to the political rise of Rawlings-Blake, who a year ago was considered a top candidate to possibly run for U.S. Senate or governor in upcoming elections.
Rawlings-Blake, 45, became Baltimore mayor in 2010 when she took over for Dixon, who stepped down following her conviction for embezzlement. Rawlings-Blake was then reelected to a full term in 2011.
Prior to becoming mayor, Rawlings-Blake served as City Council president from 2007-2010.
In 1995, Rawlings-Blake became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. She represented the council's District 5 from 1995 to 2004 and District 6 from 2004 to 2007.From 1999 to 2007, Rawlings-Blake served as vice president of the City Council.
Rawlings-Blake is also a member of one of the state's most influential political families. Her father, the late Howard "Pete" Rawlings, served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979-2003 and was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.