DeRay Mckesson ’07 has run for office before. While his campaign to become mayor of Baltimore will be his first run for public office, Mckesson was president of the Bowdoin Class of 2007 three times and president of the Bowdoin Student Government twice. 

Mckesson is currently one of the most well-known faces of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Campaign Zero, a policy-focused campaign to end police violence. He filed his papers to run in the mayoral race just before the deadline on Wednesday night and announced his candidacy in a post on Medium.

“In order to achieve the promise of our city and become the Baltimore we know we can become, we must challenge the practices that have not and will not lead to transformation,” Mckesson wrote.

Running for mayor of Baltimore appears to have been on Mckesson’s mind over ten years ago when he was still at Bowdoin.

In a 2005 article about Mckesson, the Orient wrote, “After a summer’s work at the Juvenile Division of the Baltimore City State Attorney’s Office, DeRay has seen the myriad problems facing his Maryland hometown. Ultimately, he would love to work in government as an elected executive official—perhaps eventually as the mayor of Baltimore.”

He talked about the possibility of running for mayor in an article in New York Magazine in November, but Wednesday’s announcement still came as a surprise to many.

Mckesson was the last candidate to announce his campaign before the Democratic primary on April 26, which is widely expected to determine who the next mayor will be.

Mckesson’s announcement struck an optimistic tone, but he emphasized that traditional politics have not been successful at improving the city of Baltimore.

“I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics—and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths—will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs,” Mckesson wrote.

He said he would release a full policy platform soon but referenced transparency and accountability as well as safety, job development, job access, grade-level reading, transportation and college readiness as issues he would focus on. 

Mckesson joins a crowded field of roughly a dozen candidates, including a former mayor, a state senator and two city councilmen. While he is widely known around the country for his activism, Mckesson faces an uphill battle as a non-traditional candidate.

According to the Washington Post, he would be the first political outsider elected mayor of Baltimore in modern history. 

“It is true that I am a non-traditional candidate — I am not a former mayor, city councilman, state legislator, philanthropist or the son of a well-connected family. I am an activist, organizer, former teacher and district administrator that intimately understands how interwoven our challenges and our solutions are,” wrote Mckesson, who was born and raised in Baltimore and moved back roughly a year ago. “I am a son of Baltimore.”

After graduating from Bowdoin in 2007, Mckesson worked in the Minneapolis Public School System before leaving his job to become a full-time activist. 

He’ll have to rely on his abilities to energize and organize voters that have made him so successful as an activist. 

As of press time, Mckesson had raised over $40,000 from over 650 donors through the online fundraising site

If his campaign is successful, Mckesson will join a host of other Bowdoin alumni—including current Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee ’74—who have held elected public office.