Aldermanic race awaits write-ins Absentee votes hold key to composition of city council

'I worked hard'

Democrat's tally in Ward 6 depends on name decision

November 06, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Whether Republicans will win their first Annapolis city council majority in more than 25 years hinges on how voters wrote in the name of Ward 6 Democratic candidate Cynthia Carter.

Carter, 58, an Annapolis native, ran against Republican James R. Lucas, former Alderman Wayne C. Turner's hand-picked successor. But she filed too late to get on the ballot. So the city Board of Elections said in a meeting in October with both candidates that her supporters would have to write in her full name.

Therein lies the problem.

Including absentee ballots, Lucas had 316 votes. A count of Carter's votes yesterday at City Hall revealed 288 votes for "Cynthia Carter," and about 35 votes each for "C. Carter" and for "Carter." If those partial-name ballots are counted, Carter would win, and Democrats would retain a 5-4 edge on the council.

"There are always disputes with write-in candidates," said Elections Board Chairman Richard E. Israel. The city last had a write-in candidate in 1981.

"I don't think there can be any doubt that when [voters] wrote 'C. Carter' they meant anyone but Cynthia Carter," said Lloyd E. Clinton Jr., one of Carter's attorneys. She and two attorneys will be filing a memorandum with the board by tomorrow afternoon laying out their case for validating the disputed write-ins.

The board must decide by tomorrow because it has to submit official voting results to the council then.

"The law is giving me a second chance, a fair chance," Carter said. "I worked hard, and I'm just happy that so many people came out to support me."

Lucas expressed frustration that the board didn't throw out the votes. He said his opponent's lawyers were "going to go back and try and reinvent history, change what was decided before the election. The vote should stand. It'd be nice to get on with the job."

Meg Clarke, chairwoman of the Republican City Central Committee of Annapolis, said she trusted the Board of Elections to be fair.

"If those were the terms and conditions laid out, I would presume that that would be what they base their decision on as well," Clarke said. "I'm certainly hoping that the Republican candidate will prevail."

But Clinton argued that Carter is a novice who didn't have a lawyer at the October meeting. A lawyer would have challenged a requirement for a full name.

Allen Furth, a Republican member of the Board of Elections, said the polling booth's uncomfortable set-up could have prompted voters to write shortened versions of Carter's name. To vote for her, voters had to reach above head level to write her full name in a 1-inch by 3-inch space slanted 45 degrees to the right.

"For right-handed people, it's difficult," he said. "But for left-handed people, it's infinitely more difficult."

The estimated 250 absentee ballots counted yesterday by the elections board did not affect other races. Republican Dean L. Johnson, the winning mayoral candidate, received 131 more votes, and Democrat Dennis M. Callahan received 85 more, making the final count for Johnson, 4,258 to 3,501.

In the closest of the aldermanic races -- Ward 4 where Republican Joseph Sachs narrowly defeated Madeleine F. Powers Tuesday -- absentee ballots gave both candidates a few more votes, leaving the final count at 403 to 386.

"In a city where there are more women and more Democrats, it's more difficult for a Republican male to win," Sachs said. "It was a good race."

Johnson was also feeling good yesterday. He announced that retired Army Lt. Gen. John H. Cushman, an Annapolitan, would head his transition team.

Other members of his transition team are former city Councilwoman Maureen Lamb; the Rev. Leroy Bowman, pastor of First Baptist Church for more than 50 years; and Robert N. Slawson, a retired federal employee and president of Eastport Civic Association. He said he will name two more people next week.

Johnson said many people had sent congratulations, including Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, a Democrat.

Hopkins said he was confident Johnson would be a good mayor, especially because he had experience as an alderman.

"You can't be a captain of the ship without some sea experience behind you," Hopkins said.

Before assuming his captaincy duties, Johnson said, he will be take a trip with his family.

"I call it decompression," he said. "I've been so totally focused on getting elected. I'm looking forward to relaxing."

Callahan is getting away, too.

He said he bought refundable tickets to Mexico with the plan that if he won, he and his wife, Brenda, would take a celebratory week. If not, he said, they would cash in the tickets and head to their cabin in West Virginia to "sulk."

Standing outside his Main Street headquarters Tuesday night after conceding to Johnson, Callahan said, "So, it looks like West Virginia."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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