2 political novices to face off in Ward 7

Democratic, GOP contenders both longtime civil volunteers


The defeat of Annapolis Alderman Michael W. Fox in September's Republican primary has set up a contest between two political newcomers in Ward 7.

Republican Laura M. Townsend, who rode a wave of anti-annexation sentiment to victory over Fox, will face Democrat Samuel E. Shropshire in Tuesday's election.

Shropshire's name did not appear on the Democratic primary ballot Sept. 20, but city election officials later granted a request by the Democratic Central Committee to place him on the general election ballot. Shropshire is a former committee chairman.

Both contenders spent years as civic volunteers, and neither has run for political office before.

Townsend, 39, said she took the unusual step of challenging a fellow Republican because,"Mike [Fox] wasn't where we wanted him to be on annexation and taxes." She alleged that Fox was too often aligned with Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a Democrat.

Townsend won by about 30 votes out of fewer than 200 cast. The ward covers the city's southeastern communities, including those south of Back Creek and along Bay Ridge Avenue.

Her campaign literature presents the married mother of three sons as a "real" Republican.

Townsend has taken a strong stand against further city annexation of county property. Easing traffic congestion on the clogged Annapolis Neck - a sizable number of Ward 7 residents commute to work in Washington or Baltimore - is another focal point for the Goucher College graduate.

She also favors lowering the cap on annual increases in property tax assessments from 10 percent to 4 percent.

Townsend works in the fundraising department of the Baltimore nonprofit Catholic Relief Services. Her work experience includes jobs in the state government and in advertising.

"What I bring to the table is that I am deeply involved in the community," Townsend said. "I attended Monday-night city council meetings for years."

Court documents show that Townsend was charged with leaving one of her children unattended in a dwelling in Owings Mills in 1996 and received one day of probation before judgment. She said she was unable to get home in time during an ice storm, and that the charge arose from a bitter divorce.

Shropshire, 57, until recently the chairman of the Democratic Central Committee, entered the race late so that Townsend would not run unopposed.

"I ran so the people of Ward 7 would have a choice," said Shropshire, who says he has shifted from a gung-ho Republican in his early years to a progressive Democrat. "The Vietnam War was a turning point," he said.

A Charleston, S.C., native who has been a city resident since 1987, Shropshire founded Love in Action, an Annapolis AIDS organization, and the Maritime Republic of Eastport, a charity whose activities include an annual tug of war between Eastport and downtown Annapolis. He is separated and has a grown daughter.

On the most pressing issue facing the ward, he said he supports a freeze on annexation until a joint city-council commission is established to set clear guidelines.

"It's being done piecemeal," Shropshire said. "Developers should be required to improve public facilities and the environment."

He said other priorities include reducing traffic congestion and providing more affordable housing.

Shropshire is executive director of the Simplicity Forum, which he described as an international interfaith think tank to counteract society's "consumerism and overwork."

"We need to live more on less," Shropshire said.


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