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Thomas J. Carcetti
The Wire Carcetti.jpg
First appearance "Time after Time" (episode 3.01)
Last appearance "–30–" (episode 5.10)
Cause/reason End of series
Created by David Simon
Portrayed by Aidan Gillen
Aliases Tommy (nickname)
Gender Male
Occupation Baltimore City Councilman
Mayor of Baltimore
Governor of Maryland
Title Councilman
Spouse(s) Jen Carcetti

Thomas J. "Tommy" Carcetti is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Aidan Gillen. Carcetti is an ambitious Baltimore politician who rises from a seat on the city council to the office of the Mayor of Baltimore, and to the office of the Governor of Maryland by the end of the series. While many obsevers have speculated that the inspiration for Carcetti is former Baltimore mayor and current Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, series creator David Simon has stated that while O'Malley was "one of several inspirations" for the character, other aspects of the character were based on local politicians "whose names you wouldn’t even know."[1]




Season 3

Tommy Carcetti first appeared as a Baltimore City councilman and Chairman of the Council Subcommittee for Public Safety in season three. Carcetti is a husband and father although he is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, Jen. As a councilman he worked closely with Tony Gray and the two were friends. Carcetti was idealistic and ambitious, and had the backing of Baltimore's powerful first district Democrats. Carcetti aimed to effect real change and hoped to improve the city of Baltimore. He had a strong ambition to become mayor and had formed a plan to unseat the African American incumbent, Clarence Royce.

His Democratic Party political connections gave him a sympathetic contact in the Baltimore Police Department, Major Stan Valchek. Carcetti successfully manipulated then-Acting Commissioner Burrell into working with him using his power as chairman and his connection to Valchek. Carcetti suggested that Burrell provide him with inside information about Mayor Royce's decision-making in exchange for relieving pressure applied to Burrell's department through the subcommittee and for rewards of political capital, funding and equipment. Burrell was initially resistant to this, but agreed to Carcetti's plan when he increased the pressure applied on both him and the department through his subcommittee.

Carcetti became further disillusioned with Royce when he approached him with a plan to implement a witness protection system in Baltimore. Carcetti had worked with State Delegate Odell Watkins to secure funding for the plan. Royce promised to consider it but quickly disregarded Carcetti's concern.

Carcetti is an old college friend of Washington political consultant Theresa D'Agostino, and pursued her to act as his campaign manager for his planned run against Royce. Carcetti learns that Gray also planned to run and encouraged him to do so. Using Gray's campaign as evidence that the African American voter base would be split in the election, Carcetti convinced D'Agostino to act as his campaign manager. D'Agostino advised him that enhancing Gray's campaign's chances of success would in turn, improve his own chance of winning the election. Carcetti regretted the idea of abusing his friend's trust, but decided to follow D'Agostino's strategy regardless.

Carcetti was then summoned by Commissioner Burrell after the department learns of Major Colvin's drug-tolerant zones set up in West Baltimore. Mayor Royce refused to allow the department to immediately shut down the zones, and Burrell suspects that Royce is doing so in order to put the BPD in the "Guillotine." Burrell decided that the press should be made aware of the situation in order to get the department back on track, and as a result, feeds Carcetti the information as a means of going public to spin the blame back on Royce for the cause of the drug-sanctioned areas. At D'Agostino's suggestion, he approached Colvin asking for his side of the story. Colvin had Carcetti tour the area where he views safe neighborhoods, "real" police work being done (felony church burglary arrests amongst other cases), and a happier and more vibrant community. After showing Carcetti these areas, Colvin showed him "Hamsterdam" where he viewed the open air drug dealing. Carcetti was disgusted with the rampant drug trade in the areas themselves but observed the impact that isolating the trade had on the rest of Colvin's district. Carcetti gave the story to Tony Gray to break to the media, boosting Gray's legitimacy; he and Gray used the drug zones against Royce in their campaigns. At the next city council meeting, Carcetti revealed his interest in running for mayor through his speech pertaining to the drug sanctioned areas. He claimed that "the city has neglected areas like West Baltimore, causing them to become more dangerous and decayed, and that change is more important than who takes what blame for the drug legalization". Through this, Gray realized that Carcetti was running for Mayor and after he publicly announced his intentions, Gray ended both their alliance and their friendship. Carcetti's speech relied heavily on "war" rhetoric, including words such as "weapons" and "arsenal", which clashed with Colvin's view that such a perspective was what has made the campaign against drugs unwinnable.

Season 4

By Season Four, Carcetti's campaign was well underway. He hired Norman Wilson as his deputy campaign manager, who oversaw the practicalities of organizing Carcetti's schedule and kept him working non-stop. Teresa D'Agostino remained on board as the campaign strategist and was insistent that Carcetti work on his own fundraising for the campaign - he greatly resented the task.

When early polls showed results which were not what Carcetti had hoped for, he began to lose interest in the campaign, believing that he had already lost because of his race. He continued to make his campaign stops at the urging of Wilson but began to refocus his attention on his family.

Carcetti was uninterested in debate preparation but planned to perform well anyway. He believed that he could beat incumbent Mayor Clarence Royce in a debate but would still lose the election regardless. Carcetti's debate answers were invigorated when he learned from Major Valchek that a state's witness was recently murdered. Carcetti used this inside information and his previous request for a witness protection scheme to "ambush" Royce in the debate to great effect. His confidence restored, he hit the campaign trail with renewed vigor. Carcetti then received more assistance from State Delegate Watkins when he broke his alliance with Mayor Royce. Carcetti convinced Watkins to join his campaign and with this alliance, he defeated Royce in a close but decisive Democratic primary election.[2]

As mayor-elect, Carcetti immediately began to make changes before his swearing-in. He gave Wilson a position as his chief assistant and advisor (a position matching that of Coleman Parker in Royce's "inner circle") and then, after discussions with city political officials, decides to make changes in the police department by replacing Ervin Burrell as commissioner. Watkins advises Carcetti that it would be an unwise move "for a Caucasian mayor to fire an African American Police Commissioner in a majority African American city". Carcetti planned to attract candidates from outside of Baltimore with a pay increase while at the same time asking Burrell to resign at Wilson's suggestion.

Burrell quickly realized why Carcetti could not fire him immediately, and refused to quietly leave the department. Burrell formed an alliance with City Council President Nerese Campbell and corrupt State Senator Clay Davis. Burrell continued to hold the support of a group of ministers with great political influence in the African American community. Campbell was primed to replace Royce as Mayor when his term ended, but Carcetti upset their plans by unseating Royce, drawing Campbell's enmity. Campbell opposed Carcetti's efforts to authorize a pay increase for the commissioner position. Burrell ordered an increase in arrests (mainly targeting simple misdemeanors) at Davis' suggestion, hoping to prove that the Department was functioning well under his leadership.

Carcetti was frustrated when his plans to replace Burrell were thwarted. Carcetti restricted Burrell's authority and insisted that he clear his orders through Deputy Commissioner William Rawls. Rawls convinced Carcetti that he wanted to reform the department but remained unaware that Carcetti felt unable to promote him to the position because of his race.

Major Cedric Daniels, a politically-neutral African American district commander, impressed Carcetti with his interest in quality felony arrests rather than statistically based reductions of crime. Carcetti offered Major Daniels a promotion to the Criminal Investigations Division, which came with automatic promotion to the rank of Colonel. Through Daniels, Carcetti learned of the arrest hike and consequently ordered the Department to reform its approach to prioritize quality felony cases over fulfilling statistical quotas. As Carcetti began to "groom" Daniels for the commissioner's post, both Davis and Campbell remained opposed to Burrell's termination. Davis suggested that Campbell convince the City Council to approve a $25,000 increase in the commissioner's salary. Burrell and Davis believed this would be sufficient enough for Carcetti to hope that there was a possibility of attracting a new police commissioner without actually drawing any realistic interest.

Carcetti began to plan for a possible run for the office of the Governor of Maryland. Carcetti attempted to mollify Campbell with the possibility of her taking over as Mayor part-way through his term should he become Governor. Carcetti was pressed with issues pertaining to the possible redevelopment and the opening of casinos to create revenue for the city. Newly elected State's Attorney Rupert Bond opposed the casino development.

Carcetti's plans for the police department were derailed when he learned that the city schools were facing a $52 million budget deficit. Campbell suggested that he appeal to the Governor to bail out the schools. Carcetti and Wilson travel to Annapolis where they are forced to endure a long wait for the Governor to end a phone call based meeting. The Governor offers the funds but attaches a condition—Carcetti would face public humiliation at a press conference accepting the Governor's aid. Carcetti rejects the offer as it would be damaging to his campaign against the Governor. Wilson was disappointed at Carcetti's decision to put his ambition ahead of the needs of the city. Carcetti justified his decision by claiming that he would be in a better place to help the city schools as Governor.

Carcetti dealt with a brutality complaint from the politically influential African American ministers against Sergeant Thomas "Herc" Hauk. At Wilson and Rawls' suggestion, Carcetti decided that Major Daniels, who was a former commander of Hauk (Season 1 and Season 2) should decide the punishment as a means of appeasing the ministers. Daniels decided that a reprimand for excessive force was sufficient punishment. Burrell approached Carcetti to suggest that a more rigorous review of Hauk was needed to appease the ministers, and Hauk is forced to leave the department as a eventual result. Burrell was finally able to prove his usefulness to Carcetti by exploiting his political intellect but Carcetti continued to consult Daniels on policing strategy.

Season 5

Carcetti's decision to reject the Governor's hand-out leaves him with intractable budget problems throughout his first year as Mayor. He is forced to cut spending in other areas in order to plug the school budget deficit and is unable to keep his promises to reform the police department. Despite the problems facing the city, Carcetti remains focused on running for Governor two years into his term.

Carcetti meets with Commissioner Ervin Burrell and Deputy Commissioner William Rawls to discuss the police department's problems; he is now primarily concerned with their crime statistics despite his prior decision to discourage stat-based policing. Morale in the department is at a low because Carcetti is withholding payment of overtime. The commissioners convince Carcetti to lift a cap on secondary employment for officers in order to improve their morale. Carcetti's new chief of staff, Michael Steintorf, has replaced Norman Wilson as his primary advisor. Carcetti faces criticism from Wilson for his decision to leave the hand out from the governor but still seeks his counsel. Carcetti meets with the Maryland District US Attorney to discuss federal assistance for the vacant murders case. The US Attorney is a Republican and desires federal handling of the Clay Davis corruption investigation. Carcetti refuses to order the State's Attorney, Rupert Bond, to send the case federal because he is worried it will be used to discredit the Baltimore Democratic party.[3][4]

Carcetti continues to plan his run for Governor and manages to alienate State Delegate Odell Watkins with his lack of attention to his role as Mayor. One issue Carcetti has to consider is who to back to replace him. The major candidates are Bond, whose profile is rising, and city council president Nerese Campbell. Campbell is becoming a less attractive choice because of a scandal linking her to corruption, but she maintains strong ties to the politically influential ministers. Another factor is finding an issue where the governor is vulnerable to campaign upon.[5][6] Deputy commissioner Stanislaus Valchek leaks police department statistics to Carcetti that show a rising crime rate. When Commissioner Burrell delivers manipulated statistics to Carcetti the Mayor finally has the political ammunition he needs to fire Burrell. Carcetti plans to replace Burrell with Cedric Daniels but is worried that he will not be accepted by Campbell and the ministers and that Daniels is inexperienced. He plans to temporarily promote Rawls to acting commissioner while Daniels prepares for the role as Deputy Commissioner of Operations. Carcetti leaks news of the plan to the press via Wilson to test the waters.[7][8]

Carcetti offers favors to Campbell and the ministers to accept his plans for the police department. Carcetti grants Campbell permission for the demolition of the McCullough homes, which are adjacent to Andy Krawczyk's latest building development. Campbell convinces Burrell to leave office quietly by promising him a lucrative replacement position. Carcetti reluctantly accepts the deal when Campbell hints that Burrell has knowledge of corrupt activity in Daniels' past but Carcetti remains unaware of the specifics. Carcetti officially announces his plans for the department at a press conference.[9]

In the end of series montage, it is shown that Carcetti's political machinations have succeeded and he has been elected governor of Maryland. Per his previous agreement Campbell is given the position of mayor, while Rawls and Valchek are respectively promoted to superintendent of the Maryland State Police and interim Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.

Critical response

Entertainment Weekly named Carcetti one of the five most interesting characters in season four.[10]


  1. ^ "Five Minutes With: David Simon". 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  2. ^ "Character profile - Tommy Carcetti". HBO. 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  3. ^ "More with Less". Joe Chappelle, Writ. David Simon (story and teleplay), Ed Burns (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-06. No. 1, season 5.
  4. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 51 More with Less". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  5. ^ "Unconfirmed Reports". Ernest Dickerson, Writ. William F. Zorzi (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-13. No. 2, season 5.
  6. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 52 Uncomfirmed Reports". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  7. ^ "Not for Attribution". Scott and Joy Kecken, Writ. Chris Collins (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-20. No. 3, season 5.
  8. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 53 Not for Attribution". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  9. ^ "Transitions". Dan Attias, Writ. Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-27. No. 4, season 5.
  10. ^ Neil Drumming. "High Wire Act". Entertainment Weekly.,,1535094,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-27. 


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