Mayoral race nears end of its first phase

Johnson strives to top McMillan in Tuesday primary

2-man GOP contest

September 09, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Annapolis' Mayor Dean L. Johnson says he needs coffee.

It is 10:30 on a recent morning, and the incumbent already has spent four hours politicking, waving to commuting voters on their way to work and completing campaign plans for the final stretch before Tuesday's primary election.

When asked how he feels, just days before Republican voters decide between him and his challenger, Ward 5 Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, he slowly clasps his hands and says, "All tied up."

He's had trouble sleeping - "You lie there and think `What if I did this ... ?'" The previous night he fell asleep with the television on and awoke in the morning to a commercial for Democratic mayoral candidate Maureen Lamb.

He says he wants to continue as mayor because there are a lot of things he wants to finish.

"We have an opportunity to influence what Annapolis is going to be, instead of letting it happen by accident," he says. "We can seize our own future."

But right now, Johnson's own future is uncertain. The former two-term alderman from Ward 2 and retired economist for the U.S. Department of Transportation probably has the most to lose in this election, which also has drawn five Democrats to the primary. If he doesn't win the Republican nomination Tuesday or the general election in November, the 58-year-old Washington state native, who took a pension cut by retiring early in order to serve as mayor, will have to find another job.

That's exactly what McMillan is hoping for. The two Republicans have never been allies on the city council. Even before he declared his candidacy, the 43-year-old McMillan, serving his first term on the council, criticized Johnson and his leadership. Now, he calls the often mild-mannered mayor "timid" and blasts his record at every opportunity. His blue-and-gold campaign posters feature his campaign slogan "Leadership for a change."

Johnson, who says he has never been good at defending himself in debates and prides himself on remaining "civil," calls some of the alderman's accusations "trash" and his leadership style "divisive." He says many of McMillan's assertions "show his lack of understanding" of municipal government.

The campaign has been hard-fought by both candidates. During public debates, while the Democrats have fielded mostly soft questions about their vision for the city and leadership qualities, the Republicans have gone head to head, attacking each other's records, style and ability.

The conservative McMillan says he is "running against the status quo" and criticizes the mayor for not being Republican enough.

Attack on Johnson's record

He says the mayor has not supported tax relief, mishandled negotiations for an increased sewer rate for the Naval Academy and failed to obtain more of the state's surplus funds for the city.

He said he sees the role of mayor as "someone who makes something happen," he said.

Some of the legislation McMillan gives as an example of his leadership ability has been a source of conflict. He has drawn fire, especially from the African-American community, for a voter identification law that he sponsored and that will be tested for the first time Tuesday. He also sponsored legislation to create drug-loitering-free zones that was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge.

While some have accused him of racism, McMillan points out that he was elected to represent a mostly black ward, and claims that the anti-loitering law had the support of black constituents.

"For so long, many issues in Annapolis have been swept under the rug," he says. "Bringing those issues forward doesn't make me divisive."

Questions of experience

Johnson questions whether his rival has the experience to run the government and whether he will dedicate enough time to the post - McMillan is a commercial airline pilot and serves as a commander in the Naval Reserve.

McMillan says his job as a pilot keeps him out of town an average of six days a month and calls having a job in the private sector "an asset" for a mayor.

Johnson points to private investment on West Street, the beginnings of a transportation master plan, increased bus ridership, resolution of a sewer agreement with the county and increased funding from the state for city services among his accomplishments as mayor.

He says voters should vote for him because "Dean Johnson has a record of getting things done, not just the things about which speeches are made."

McMillan says voters should choose him because he has been and will be "an advocate for Annapolis and its neighborhoods."

"Johnson has failed in that responsibility miserably - that is the most important thing a mayor does," he says.

Sept. 11 primary

Mayoral race

Republicans:

Mayor Dean L. Johnson

Alderman Herbert H. McMillan

Democrats:

Alfred A. Hopkins

Sylvanus B. Jones

Maureen Lamb

Alderman Ellen O. Moyer

Franklin S. Yates

Contested city council races

Democrats:

Ward 1

Alderman Louise Hammond

Caryl P. Weiss

Ward 3

Alderman Samuel Gilmer

Classie Gillis Hoyle

Ward 8

Joshua Cohen

Douglas Lamborne

There are no contested Republican council races

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