Ward 6 election no longer a shoo-in Hand-picked successor to GOP's Turner faces write-in challenge

October 20, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

At first, Republican James R. Lucas appeared to be facing an easy ride to victory in the race for the Ward 6 seat on the Annapolis city council in the November general election.

He is former Alderman Wayne C. Turner's hand-picked successor, having replaced the two-term Republican alderman after Turner resigned from the council last month.

Turner's name was on the primary ballot because he withdrew too late for it to be removed, but Lucas' name will be on the general election ballot.

Turner has urged his former constituents to vote for Lucas in the general election. Until last week, the 54-year-old businessman had no opposition.

But then members of his own party and others began grumbling that Lucas was handed his job by his predecessor without any competition, that voters were given no real choice and that Lucas had lived in Spa Creek Landing only two years, not long enough to understand issues important to his community.

Out of the turmoil appeared Cynthia Carter, a 58-year-old Annapolis native. She is a Democrat running as a write-in candidate who is "a longtime resident who cares about her neighbors." She filed too late to get on the ballot.

For Ward 6 residents, the race is crucial. They need someone to provide strong leadership for a part of the city that doesn't have the influence derived from a historic district, maritime industry or a high-growth area.

For some, it could illustrate the growing strength of the Republican Party. If the party can unite to help the unknown Lucas beat the equally unknown Carter in an overwhelmingly Democratic ward, it could take control of the council.

"The grumbling occurred mostly because the gentleman has not been here very long," said Richard Weaver, a longtime city Republican who wanted to succeed Turner. "Nobody knew him. But ultimately, I think Mr. Turner's support for Mr. Lucas will carry through. I believe there's a very good possibility that we can take over the council."

It could happen. Only three incumbents -- Democrats Louise Hammond of Ward 1, Samuel Gilmer of Ward 3 and Ellen O. Moyer of Ward 8 -- are running for re-election. All eight wards have contested races. Republican Alderman Dean L. Johnson of Ward 2 and Democratic former Mayor Dennis Callahan are in a close race for mayor.

The council has seven Democratic and two Republican members. Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins is a Democrat.

But Democrats say they believe they will prevail, not just in Ward 6, but citywide.

All the more reason why a GOP win in Ward 6 would be a coup, Republican leaders say.

Nearly twice as many Democrats are registered than Republicans -- 1,248 to 707 -- in the ward. Before Turner was elected in 1989, Democrat Hopkins had held the seat for 28 years.

The Democrats will not be complacent in this race, Riccardo Paradiso, former Republican Central Committee chairman, predicted.

"This will be a pretty good opportunity for them to take over. There are still grumblings about Mr. Lucas," he said.

While Paradiso plans to vote for Lucas, fellow Republican Carol S. Lewnes will not. Lewnes, who also wanted to succeed Turner, complains the Republican Party is not diverse enough and said others agree with her. All the Republicans running for city office this year are white males, she noted pointedly.

"I'm voting for Ms. Carter," said Lewnes, who said she withdrew her candidacy for Ward 6 in September to avoid a GOP split. "It's not a retaliation, it's a concern that the best person serves our ward. She's been here longer, she understands the problems facing our community."

The biggest issues both candidates must deal with are improving public housing and lowering the crime rate in the ward, which includes Harbour House and Eastport Terrace, both public housing communities.

The candidates also must win support from a broad range of voters in a ward where longtime residents live near transient renters and high-income and low-income communities are side by side.

This has become a nettlesome problem for Lucas, who has been criticized for supporting the creation of a gated community for his neighborhood, the high-income, exclusive condominium development of Shearwater. Carter said that is an effort to divide the ward.

"People who live here like the diversity of the community," said Carter, a housewife and part-time clerk for a bus company who once lived in public housing. "We do not want division in the area.

"I'm really concerned about my neighborhood, and I think voters want someone like that," Carter said. "I'm also counting on dissatisfaction in the Republican Party to help me win."

But Carter's toughest problem will be getting her name out and getting voters to remember to write it on their ballots.

Lucas dismisses his critics. Although he has lived in his ward only two years, he has lived in Annapolis off and on for several years, he said. He also said he has a firm grasp of the issues because he worked closely with Turner for many years and believes his experience as the executive of his consulting firm will help him make the city operate as efficiently as a well-run business.

"I never thought it was going to be easy," Lucas said. "I think the grumblings were one of the symptoms of growth and greater involvement by the Republican Party. Since then, I think we're pulling together. I feel good about it."

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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