Annapolis race about candidates, not issues

Mayoral campaign focuses on styles of McMillan, Moyer

November 01, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

With the incumbent knocked out of the race, the fight for mayor of Annapolis comes down to a disagreement over leadership styles and the value -- or liability -- of good connections.

The choice for mayor in this highly politicized town where officials regularly hobnob with the governor and other state politicos will be settled next week as voters head to the polls to name a new mayor as well as a city council in one of the Baltimore area's few elections.

The contest for the top spot is between two council members from opposite ends of the political spectrum who seem to agree on almost every major issue, except which of them would better lead the city for the next four years.

"From a leadership perspective, I think I stand head and shoulders above you," Republican Alderman Herbert H. McMillan told his opponent, Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, at a debate this week.

"His style of leadership is to impose an agenda," Moyer said earlier. "Really good leadership is to engage people in solving problems."

In the Sept. 11 primary overshadowed by the terrorist attacks, McMillan, a first-term alderman, defeated Mayor Dean L. Johnson to win his party's nomination, and Moyer, the 14-year representative from Eastport, got the nod from the Democrats in a landside victory over four other candidates.

Since then, the campaign has found the candidates -- who have both been at the center of controversy during their tenure -- attempting to mold their images into ones that can be swallowed by residents who count their state and county political centers as neighbors.

Moyer -- who as the Democrat and a longtime presence here has the backing of state officials and the Anne Arundel County executive -- has peppered her campaign with talk about collaboration between governments and people, her "creativity and imagination," and the inspiration she says she gets from other people's ideas. If elected, Moyer would become the first female mayor of the city.

A Naval Academy graduate, professional airline pilot and officer in the Naval Reserves, McMillan has portrayed himself as a political outsider and fiscal conservative with the guts to be an "advocate for the city." His slogan in the race has been "leadership ... for a change."

Moyer said that McMillan's attitude will make it difficult for him to work with state and county officials whom she calls her "friends, colleagues and political allies" when discussing city funding and other issues.

McMillan questions Moyer's ability to stand up for the city in those negotiations, because the officials are "friends" in her party.

With more than 20 years' difference between them, work and age has also become an issue. McMillan said voters would be better served by a "young and vigorous" mayor. He is 43 and a father of four and boasts that he does 210 sit-ups a day.

Moyer, who is 65 and a grandmother, questions McMillan's ability to be mayor while working as a pilot for American Airlines. She has retired from her position as a lobbyist for the Maryland State Teachers Association.

"I have the commitment to do it as a full-time job," she said. "He can't do it at his convenience."

McMillan said he would retire from the Navy Reserve if elected, and that his job at American keeps him out of town six days a month, so he will able to be a full-time mayor. He said his outside employment is an asset, because it keeps him in touch with the people.

McMillan has dug up a controversy that enveloped Moyer in the mid-1990s, which he says flies in the face of her claims to be collaborative.

During the city's "Bar Wars," Moyer ran afoul of influential historic district residents by voting for and sponsoring legislation to extend 2 a.m. liquor licenses to additional bars and restaurants, despite residents' outcries. Moyer says the issue was one of fairness because some restaurants had 2 a.m. licenses while others on the same block were forced to close at midnight. When the council granted an additional downtown restaurant the late license, residents sued the city and won. Moyer calls this a "nonissue today."

"I don't know what relevance it is today," she says. "It's a 7-year-old thing -- whoever is concerned about it is stuck in a time warp."

McMillan retorts, "There isn't a statute of limitation on your record."

He has also brought up Moyer's performance as chairwoman of the city council's finance committee in 1994, saying "past is prelude."

Moyer resigned from the post after submitting the budget, saying that a "faction" of council members were trying to force her to fire certain city employees. Moyer said that dispute, with her hectic work schedule at the time, is why she stepped down.

For her part, Moyer points to the controversy surrounding legislation McMillan sponsored that was later declared unconstitutional, and his style has caused his critics to brand him "divisive."

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