Johnson's late start is noted in defeat

Annapolis mayor lost by 109 votes to Alderman McMillan

`Dean didn't campaign'

September 13, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

In the spring, there were rumors that Dean L. Johnson would not run for re-election as the mayor of Annapolis.

Johnson - who lost the Republican nomination Tuesday to Alderman Herbert H. McMillan after serving one term- said such rumors were spread by those who hoped he wouldn't run. But after his defeat, by about 100 votes, some say that his failure to come out strong early could have cost him the election.

"Dean [Johnson] spent more time doing his mayoral job, and he didn't get out there early enough campaigning," said Alderman Michael W. Fox, a Republican who supported the incumbent and now says he will lend his support to the Democratic nominee, Alderman Ellen O. Moyer.

"I think he thought he was doing his job right, and he didn't get as aggressive on the campaign trail as he probably should have," Fox said.

Johnson's supporters and others also point to a lack of early fund raising and a failure to respond to some political attacks as reasons the incumbent lost the primary election to a first-term alderman whose four years on the council have been marked by contention. They also pointed to what they saw as a lower-than-expected turnout likely caused by Tuesday's national tragedies.

McMillan, 43, a pilot who is serving his first term on the council, was probably best known before the campaign for championing an anti-loitering law targeting drug dealers. In April, a federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional.

McMillan, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, will take on Moyer, who has represented Eastport for 14 years, in the November general election.

For Moyer, the potential for a McMillan win in the Republican primary was one of the reasons she ran, she said.

Both candidates have said they look forward to debating the issues in the general election. Moyer is a self-described "progressive Democrat" while McMillan is a conservative Republican.

"Our candidacy will give the public the opportunity to look at two very, very different visions of public office and public service," Moyer said yesterday.

She said Johnson had a "seeming disinterest in challenging and putting forth his record - or he was unable to put forth a record, one or the other."

"Dean didn't campaign," she said. "You still do have to campaign. I think he believed he was a nice guy, everything was going fine, and there was no real reason not to elect him, so he thought he'd be OK."

But soon after McMillan declared, the alderman began strong attacks against the incumbent. His campaign slogan from the beginning was "leadership for a change."

As McMillan began launching attacks, Johnson continued as mayor, but had no significant campaigning. In the first campaign finance report, Johnson reported raising $110 while McMillan had raised more than $19,000, and Moyer, who significantly outdid the four other Democrats financially, had raised $40,000.

Johnson did not begin responding in force to McMillan's criticism until the final weeks of the campaign, when he sent out more mailings and raised more money. In the end, he raised $8,519, compared with McMillan's $24,608 and Moyer's $51,315.

The mayor contended then - and still maintains - that he did not need much money to win.

The number of "yard signs or how much money he's raised - neither has a damn thing to do with the quality of the campaign or the candidate," he said.

He said he focused more on his job then his campaign out of "a sense of responsibility to the job. ... I would hope that would be what the citizens would want done - that is what they elected me for."

"The truth is the mayor was busy being the mayor, and until he had to start campaigning, he wanted to be dealing with the work at hand," said Valerie Ney, vice president of Basis Research, a political consulting firm that joined the Johnson campaign in its final weeks.

Once she and her husband John began working with the campaign, they increased fund raising and sent out more mailings.

"It was enough," Ney said. "It may have been a little too late. ... It was a couple weeks of very intense work, things we would have done over several months."

The unofficial results released Tuesday night had Johnson beating McMillan in five of the eight wards, but with relatively small margins. In Ward 1 and Ward 5, McMillan's home ward, McMillan defeated the mayor by 71 and 142 votes, respectively. The unofficial tally had McMillan winning by a 831-722 vote.

Ney also said the campaign had expected a higher turnout. About 22 percent of the city's registered Republicans and Democrats turned out Tuesday, a figure at the low end of the city's average in recent primaries.

Annapolis election

Candidates who will be on the ballot for the Annapolis General Election on Nov. 6:

Mayor

Democrat: Alderman Ellen O. Moyer

Republican: Alderman Herbert H. McMillan

Ward 1

Democrat: Alderman Louise Hammond

Green Party: Isaac Opalinsky No Republican

Ward 2

Democrat: Alderman Sheila Tolliver*

No Republican

Ward 3

Democrat: Classie Gillis Hoyle

No Republican

Ward 4

Democrat: George O. Kelley*

Republican: Alderman Joseph Sachs*

Ward 5

No Democrat

Republican: David H. Cordle*

Independent: Wilford W. Scott

Ward 6

Democrat: Alderman Cynthia Carter*

Republican: Riccardo Paradiso*

Independent: Julie Stankivic

Ward 7

No Democrat

Republican: Alderman Michael W. Fox*

Ward 8

Democrat: Joshua Cohen

Republican: Robert McWilliams*

*Candidate was uncontested in primary election.

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