Mayoral campaign may get crowded Callahan might join race

Snowden battles rumor mill

December 08, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The race to be Annapolis' next mayor has quickened, with a former mayor saying he might seek his old job and another candidate trying to quell rumors he is getting out.

Dennis M. Callahan, who was soundly beaten in his campaign for re-election in 1989 by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, stunned city politicians when he confirmed Friday that he is "seriously considering" running for the seat next year.

Meanwhile, Alderman Carl O. Snowden says that despite

rumors, he is "definitely not" angling to become executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority -- a "high pressure cooker" job that pays more than $60,000 a year.

"If asked to serve, I would not," said Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who has not officially announced his candidacy for mayor but has raised about $55,000 for the race.

"I have no interest in it. I am running for mayor."

Talk of Snowden's interest in the housing authority position began months ago when the agency's board of commissioners began talking about ousting Director Harold S. Greene.

When Greene stepped down Dec. 1 and a nationwide search for a new director began, the Snowden rumors escalated.

"The stories are starting to get even wilder," said a frustrated Snowden.

"Last Monday night, Dr. Will Scott on the planning commission came up to me and said he heard I was not running for mayor.

"Even former Mayor Dennis Callahan called me. I've had several people approach me about it."

Mary Louise Pontius, a member of the agency's board, said she also has heard the rumors, but "as far as I know he has not applied, and he is not being considered for the position."

"We are looking for someone, a professional, who has extensive experience and qualifications in public housing," Pontius said.

No applicants

No one has applied for the job, which is being filled temporarily by Deputy Director Roger W. "Pip" Moyer.

The executive director oversees a $4 million budget and 10 public housing complexes with about 5,000 tenants -- nearly one-fifth of Annapolis' population.

On the other hand, with an annual salary of $52,000 and the prestige of the state's capital city, being mayor is considered a political plum.

Housing supporters

Although Snowden supporters decry the rumors, they say he would be perfect for the housing job because he is chairman of the city finance committee and is well-connected and well-respected by many tenants in public housing.

"He would be very good for the job," said Bertina Nick, a longtime supporter.

"But it's just poppycock. I probably know him better than anybody, and I can honestly say he is not interested in that job. Why would he raise all that money to run for mayor if he's interested in the housing authority?"

The usual suspects

So where are the rumors coming from? Political foes who want to shift the spotlight off Snowden, Nick believes.

Snowden agrees.

"It is my suspicion that it is wishful thinking on my political opponents' part to have people believe that I am not a candidate," Snowden said.

"Maybe as a way to impact on me raising campaign contributions and the like."

But his most serious opponent for the mayoral job quickly dismissed such accusations.

"I play nice," said Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican.

"Why would I spread those rumors? As far as I know, he is in the race for mayor lock, stock and barrel. Besides, it makes the race more fun with him in it."

Other politicians have expressed interest in the mayoral position, but no one with the stature of Callahan, said Moyer, mayor from 1965 to 1973 and a supporter of Snowden.

"As soon as the presidential inauguration is over, the mayor's race will hit full force," Moyer said.

"It will be very interesting. Dennis is a very talented person and a very good mayor, maybe even the best mayor we've ever had. It's hard to predict how a multiple race will go off.

"But, I'd imagine that the race will get very heated and very personal, like most city elections are," Moyer said.

Snowden vs. Callahan likely

Callahan, a registered Democrat, likely will run against Snowden in the primaries unless the city council passes charter amendments in January to eliminate partisan elections next year.

Callahan was beaten in 1989, when he ran as a Democrat, and in 1993, when he ran as an independent, by Hopkins, whose second term ends next year.

While Callahan has not aggressively campaigned for mayor, political watchers say the former mayor has three things going for him: name recognition, a base of support in the city and the ability to raise money quickly.

A strong mayor who ran the city with a firm hand, Callahan is credited with:

Reforming the housing authority after Arthur G. Strissel, then the executive director, was convicted of federal corruption charges.

Tackling drug problems in the city.

Reducing property taxes.

Improving the city's finances.

Promoting minorities in city government.

Callahan says he won't make an announcement soon. "I intend to enjoy the holiday season," he said.

"I will not even think about politics until the end of the year, probably.

"But if someone running for mayor wanted to be seen as a viable candidate, I would think spring would be the best time to make an announcement."

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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