Eugene Tetteh, 51, was among the Moore supporters who said in an interview that public safety was a top-of-mind issue, along with education. Mr. Tetteh, who lives in suburban Howard County but does business in Baltimore, said he had been alarmed by how “overwhelmed” the police seemed in the city. Young people, he said, were especially vulnerable on disorderly and dangerous streets.
“There has to be more to it for these kids out there than that,” he said.
Todd Scott, 59, a voter at Mr. Moore’s rally, said he wanted to see the next governor take a comprehensive approach to battling crime and its underlying causes. An official with the state housing department, Mr. Scott said he admired the outgoing Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who has crusaded for police funding and clashed with local Democrats who resent what they see as his heavy-handed style.
“The number one focus in keeping our city and our state where it needs to be at is crime,” Mr. Scott said.
He added that fighting crime has to involve more than locking up criminals. “You’ve got to focus on all the issues that lead our youth to the crime — which is housing, which is education,” he said.
The Shadow of Defund
In 2020, Democrats faced a barrage of attacks from Republicans branding them as indifferent to violent crime and tying the party as a whole to a progressive criminal-justice agenda that included directing money away from policy departments and scaling back prosecution of low-level offenses.
A report compiled in 2021 by three major Democratic interest groups, including the centrist organization Third Way, concluded that Democrats had spent the last election “stuck on defense” on crime. The party, the report stated, needed to have “a proactive story about necessary systemic changes to policing that would stem the violence and still prioritize and provide public safety.”
Mr. Biden has highlighted the public safety funding in the American Rescue Plan, his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that allocated huge sums of money for state and local services. Last month, the president held an event with police chiefs urging cities to spend pandemic-aid money on strengthening law enforcement ahead of an anticipated summer spike in crime.