Annapolis voters to pick council candidates

Battle for seats in four of city's wards to play out in Tuesday's primary

Parties' mayoral picks uncontested

September 18, 2005|By Annie Linskey and Bradley Olson | Annie Linskey and Bradley Olson,SUN STAFF

Annapolis residents going to the polls for primary elections Tuesday will choose among the most diverse field of candidates in the city's history.

Neither mayoral candidate faces an opponent in the primaries. Mayor Ellen O. Mayor, a Democrat, and Alderman George O. Kelley Sr., a Republican, will appear alone on their respective party ballots. They will vie in a three-way race with Independent Gilbert T. Renaut in the general election Nov. 8.

But the city has eight wards, and in four of them, city council candidates will square off. There will be Democratic primaries in three wards and Republican primaries in two wards. Only Ward 2 will feature a Democratic and Republican primary.

The most significant contests will be in Wards 3 and 7, where the primary winners will not face opponents in the general election. Two Democrats face each other in Ward 3 and two Republicans square off in Ward 7.

African-American candidates are running for city council in four of the five primary races.

"With the city rapidly changing, it is important that their voices not only be sought but heard," said Carl O. Snowden, a local civil rights activist who serves as an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens and who pushed to recruit black candidates in most of the wards.

The diversity has shaped the debate. In interviews, candidates spoke about the division between the city's black and white residents in addition to development and tax issues.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Here is an overview of the council contests:

Ward 1

With 11-year council member Louise Hammond stepping down, Ward 1, which stretches from the historic district to the Spa Road corridor, has an open race.

Republican Doug Burkhardt is running unopposed in the GOP primary, while Richard E. Israel will face Alice O. Johnson in the Democratic primary.

Israel, 62, is a retired assistant state attorney general with degrees from the University of the South, Sewanee; Washington and Lee University; and Oxford University. He has served as president of the Murray Hill Residents Association, a member of the Annapolis Historical District Commission and chairman of the Annapolis elections board.

Israel said running for office is the logical extension of his civic work in Annapolis. If elected, he pledged to limit tax increases that stem from rising property assessments.

"As I walk around going from door to door, from one end of the ward to the other, this is the issue that most people talk to me about," he said.

Israel said he would also focus on crime, redevelopment, traffic and parking.

Johnson, 56, is a homemaker who attends Anne Arundel Community College.

She sits on the board of We Care and Friends of Black Annapolitans, is a member of Citizens Community of Requests and serves in various administrative positions that oversee public housing in Annapolis.

Johnson said her main concern is creating jobs for struggling residents in public housing, as well as developing job skills and training programs for younger people who need guidance about their future.

"I'm raising three grandchildren and my mother lives here, so as a single mother and single grandmother, I see the difficulties this generation is going to face, and I want to do something about that."

Ward 2 Democratic

Five candidates - two Democrats and three Republicans - are vying to replace Sheila M. Tolliver as council member. The ward encompasses some of the city's wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods, including Admiral Heights, West Annapolis, Cedar Park and Clay Street.

Tolliver, a Democrat, has held the seat for two terms and is not running again. She wants to spend more time with her family and has plans to move from the city in a few years.

Democrats in Ward 2 will choose between Debbie R. McKerrow, 57, president of Chesapeake Estate Services Inc., a company that helps people settle their estates; and Joseph "Zastro" Simms, 71, a longtime community activist.

Both candidates view development and crime as key issues in the race, but have different takes on how these issues should be addressed.

McKerrow believes development can harm quality of life in the ward, stressing that traffic generated by new stores and businesses is clogging the roads. She says her current appointment to the mayor's annexation work group positions her well to make policy decisions on the issue.

"Developers would like to develop more on Forest Drive," said McKerrow. It's important, she says, to consider the big picture and have a vision for "what Annapolis will look like in five years."

By forming a citizens' coalition for Ward 2, she fought the installation of a conference and visitors center in the ward and efforts to widen Rowe Boulevard.

Simms advocates commercial development in the Clay Street area. "The street that I grew up on - Clay Street - is plagued with violence."

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