Black vote may have given Moyer edge in mayoral race

She had large margins over McMillan in mostly minority wards

November 08, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Black voters may have been a deciding factor in Democrat Ellen O. Moyer's victory over Republican Herbert H. McMillan on Tuesday in the Annapolis mayoral race.

Moyer, according to the unofficial tally, won by about 700 votes, with large margins in Wards 3, 4 and 6.

Those wards, which became the city's three primarily black wards after this summer's redistricting, all elected black council members, the largest minority contingent on the council at one time in a city that is nearly one-third black.

"It shows that the African-American vote is a strong, powerful vote here in the city," said George O. Kelley Sr., who upset white Alderman Joseph Sachs in the new Ward 4.

Classie Gillis Hoyle, who was unopposed in the general election, won the Ward 3 seat, and Alderman Cynthia Carter - the first black woman to serve on the city council - was re-elected in Ward 6.

In her campaign, Moyer focused on winning the black vote and attracted the support of prominent black leaders, including several ministers. McMillan, who was elected to a council seat from a mostly black ward in 1997, clashed with many black leaders over the law allowing the creation of anti-loitering zones in areas of high drug trafficking.

At the same time, McMillan's campaign was counting on the support of Ward 1, where Moyer ran afoul of many historic district residents in the "bar wars" of the early 1990s, when she supported additional 2 a.m. liquor licenses, and Ward 2, where he played up his support of community consensus.

In those wards, the candidates broke nearly even, a surprise to many observers.

"That seemed to be where his strength was coming from," said W. Minor Carter, former president of the Ward One Residents Association who said he supported neither candidate. "For her to essentially break even in those two wards is a substantial victory for her."

Ward 1 Alderman Louise Hammond worked on McMillan's campaign. Randy Landis, a Ward 2 resident, was his fund-raiser, and Debbie Rosen McKerrow, co-chairwoman of the Ward 2 Citizens Coalition, organized Democrats and Independents for McMillan. Still, the numbers that he needed to win did not materialize there.

McMillan's only large margin over Moyer was in his own Ward 5, where he got about 200 votes more than she did. In her Ward 8, she won by about 150 votes.

McMillan lost by about 300 votes in Ward 3 and about 200 votes in Wards 4 and 6.

Landis said Moyer did so well in those areas because her campaign played the "race card" unfairly.

"They used ministers to restate racially charged false statements," Landis said. "They were trying to scare the black community into voting for Moyer."

Others said McMillan's actions cost him the black vote, particularly his strong support of the anti-loitering law, which was challenged by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and declared unconstitutional in federal district court in the spring.

"McMillan became the perfect lightning rod to energize a turnout in the community," said Carl O. Snowden, McMillan's predecessor as Ward 5 alderman before an unsuccessful 1997 mayoral bid. "I don't think the same thing would have happened had Dean Johnson been the nominee. He doesn't inspire the same kind of response in the African-American community."

The Black Political Forum, of which Snowden is a member, bused black voters to the polls and held a pro-Moyer rally at Rapture Church on Monday night.

Landis said the black vote also might have hurt McMillan in Ward 2, which includes the mostly black Clay Street community.

Ward One's Carter speculated that the surprising turnout in favor of Moyer in his ward could have been a "protest vote" against Hammond and other prominent resident leaders, who were strong McMillan supporters.

Hammond beat political novice Isaac Opalinsky, a 25-year-old Green Party candidate, by a surprisingly narrow margin, 723 to 527 in the unofficial results. Hammond declined to discuss the results until she could analyze the returns.

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