Terry J. Seamens is the unofficial winner of one of Takoma Park's six City Council seats, with results from Tuesday's election showing he won 47 votes to Roland James Dawes' 30.
The thing is, Seamens wasn't even running.
Seamens, a former councilman who gave up his seat two years ago in an unsuccessful bid for mayor, had planned to run but withdrew his name from the ballot long before Election Day in the Montgomery County municipality.
But a group of Seamens' neighbors had other ideas and started a grass-roots campaign. They put fliers in residents' doors in recent days and held homemade signs at the City Hall polling place Tuesday urging voters to write-in for Seamens.
"I am not only surprised I won, but surprised so many people were supporting me and I didn't even know it," Seamens, a 57-year-old software developer, said yesterday.
The incumbent Dawes, 75, had been on the council since Seamens stepped down two years ago. He ran unopposed this year, so he figured he was probably guaranteed to keep his job, but insists he was not shocked by the odd turn of events. "You never know what's coming," the barbershop owner said. "It's nothing but back-stabbers in this world. If a person stepped down, you leave it at that."
Still, in the next breath, he says he is neither angry nor disappointed by the outcome. "At my age, I can take it or leave it," said Dawes, a father of six, grandfather of 16 and great-grandfather of four.
Mary Thorpe, a retiree who doesn't share her age with anyone, said she spent a good deal of time in recent days trying to convert voters to the write-in - or in this case, type-in - campaign. She handed out fliers and carried signs along main roads and at bus stops. On Tuesday, she wore her sign outside City Hall, Takoma Park's only polling place that day.
She and others in the impromptu movement to draft Seamens were upset when he withdrew from the race. Seamens said he withdrew mainly because there were people who believed he had promised not to seek the seat if the incumbent was running.
"When he withdrew, we were at a loss because we really wanted him back in," Thorpe said. "Wouldn't you try to get the best?
"Mr. Seamens is my neighbor, and Mr. Seamens is a very good neighbor," she said. "He looks after every concern."
The part-time City Council job paid less than $4,000 this year.
Voter turnout was low in Ward 4, where the Seamens-Dawes race played out. Just 77 votes went to the top two vote-getters, though Seamens said there are 950 registered voters. The results were to be made official late last night, but the city clerk could not be reached for comment.
Seamens said he got his first inkling late last week that something was afoot in the council race when he saw a copy of the flier that had been tucked into everyone's doors.
"It brought a tear to my eye when I read it," he said. "When I saw the flier, I thought, `That's really nice but a write-in campaign is impossible.'"
He learned he was wrong late Tuesday when he got a call while at a victory party for someone else, a call telling him he had something of his own to celebrate.
Though he didn't think he had a chance, Seamens at least bought into the write-in concept.
Seamens voted for himself.