ANNAPOLIS-Despite a sleepy primary, Annapolis politicians are gearing up for what many are predicting will be a heated general election campaign to choose a mayor and city council for the state capital.
“I think it is going to be a very tough campaign,” said incumbent Mayor Ellen Moyer, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
She will face Alderman George O. Kelley Sr., who was likewise unopposed in the Republican primary. Kelley, a Democrat who became a Republican in order to challenge Moyer, is seeking to become the first African American mayor of this historic city of about 37,000 people.
Kelley was not available for comment.
“I’m looking for an election that will lead to discussion with different viewpoints being heard,” said Joan St. Amour, 38, a financial analyst and lifelong Annapolitan, who was interviewed outside a polling place Tuesday.
Besides choosing candidates for the mayoral election, Annapolis voters on Tuesday selected candidates for the eight alderman seats. Democratic incumbents Louise Hammond (Ward 1) and Sheila M. Tolliver (Ward 2) did not seek reelection, leaving two open seats. Richard Israel won the Democratic primary in Ward 1 and Debbie R. McKerrow defeated Joseph “Zastro” Simms in Ward 2. One incumbent alderman, Michael W. Fox (R-Ward 7) was unseated by Laura Townsend.
Moyer called the defeat of Republican Fox “a loss to Annapolis.”
Townsend and Alderwoman Classie Hoyle, a Democrat from Ward 3, will both face no opposition in the general election.
The turnout in Tuesday’s primary was low. Allen Furch, chairman of the city’s board of elections said between 1400 and 1500 voters went to the polls for the primary. There are 23,562 registered voters, but Furch said the low turnout was unsurprising, considering that both mayoral primaries as well as four of the eight alderman races were uncontested.
Still, interviews with voters and candidates showed there are issues that will drive people to the polls – public safety, traffic, growth and the cost of housing.
Jim Martin, 56, the owner of the Free State Press, said that he has employees who can not afford to live in the city because housing is so expensive.
“We need to build housing that working people in the city have a chance to afford,” he said.
At Bates Middle School, the polling place for Ward 1, Ed Seaquist, 72, voiced concerns about growth. He said that construction is compounding traffic problems and better planning is needed.
“Can the city’s infrastructure, especially the streets, handle the densities? The answer is no,” the 40-year-resident said.
Because of the city’s rapid growth, said election judge Jim Hutchinson, 61, who was working at Bates Middle School, Annapolis “went from Mayberry to New York City. Annapolis used to be a quaint, community oriented place.”
Leah Weiss, 48, an environmental analyst from Ward 3, said the traffic problem is her biggest concern because of the impact it has on public health.
“We have new development but very poor foot and bike access, which means people are getting in their cars more. Developers don’t think about the public health impact,” Weiss said.
One issue that is likely to come up, many predicted, was the fate of the Market House, a city-owned retail space that is empty despite its proximity to the City Dock tourist area. “Market House is the most visible embarrassment to everyone on the council because it has been vacant for nine months,” said Alderman Joshua J. Cohen, Democratic incumbent from Ward 8. “The mayor takes the hit because she is sitting in the big chair.”