For arguably the first time, the city politics plotline really took center stage in last night’s Wire with a continued focus on the way Carcetti’s campaign is being aided by his friends in the Baltimore Police Department. Consistent with the spirit of season four so far, racial issues have been brought to the foreground in a way they weren’t in earlier seasons, as I think we’re pretty clearly supposed to see Major Valchek as motivated primarily by a desire to see one of his own in City Hall. From Valchek’s perspective as, in essence, a dead-ender as commander of the Southeastern District, that seems to make sense. He’s a pissy old man, entrenched in his position, but without hope of future advancement, so he can indulge his whims. Deputy Chief Rawls’ pro-Carcetti sentiments, on the other hand, strike me as difficult to understand.
Rawls, presumably, would like to be commissioner. It seems to me that, logically, Carcetti is the last candidate who’s going to be in a position to make that happen. As keeps being emphasized, his only hope of winning is for Tony Gray to split the black vote. Under the circumstances, to secure re-election, Carcetti’s going to need to seriously bolster his support from African-Americans. Meanwhile, his law-and-order campaign is walking a knife’s edge. On the one hand, the inner-city poor are the primary victims of crime so his emphasis on those issues gives him some access to that constituency. On the other hand, African-American voters tend (with reason) to be suspicious that efforts to mobilize concern about crime are, in practice, just part of the politics of white supremacy. Firing a black police commissioner to replace him with a white one would be a fiasco. Burrell, by contrast, has ample wiggle-room to reward supporters (see, e.g., Herc) irrespective of race.