GOP tries to shift power in Ward 8

After at least 18 years under Democratic control, hopeful aims to upset incumbent for council seat

November 04, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

The weeks went by, and no Republicans came forward. Over the summer, Regina E. Linton prodded others, waited and prodded some more. The retired travel agent thought someone from her party would challenge Democrat Joshua J. Cohen, the incumbent alderman for Eastport.

But there were no takers for a position that has been under Democratic control for at least 18 years.

"No one wanted to run. No one wanted to spend the money," said Linton, 69, explaining why she entered the race against Cohen, 32, for the Ward 8 Annapolis city council seat.

Now Linton, a volunteer for St. Mary's Church and the Historical Annapolis Foundation, will have to persuade voters in the Democratic-leaning ward to switch over to the GOP column.

Linton has linked her opponent to embattled Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who she has criticized as not doing enough to limit rising property taxes and as mismanaging efforts to lease the historic Market House. Cohen succeeded Moyer, who had represented the ward for 14 years, when she became mayor in 2001.

"He's a puppet on a shoestring for her," said Linton, a nine-year city resident who also referred to Cohen "as a nice boy. He's learning."

Cohen praised his good relationship with the mayor but stressed his independence from Moyer on several issues. For example, he believes the city council should have been more involved in the Market House bidding process than it was. Cohen also believes the city should increase the size of the police force by 10 officers, despite a declining crime rate.

Cohen has voted many times with the mayor in his four years, but he said those decisions were based on the merits, not council allegiances.

"I stand behind all the votes I have taken," he said.

Linton says she isn't concerned about taking on an incumbent - even on a shoestring budget and without a campaign sign to her name. She received 7 percent as a write-in candidate against County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk in 2002.

In 2001, Cohen received about 58 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Robert McWilliams. According to voter registration records, the ward has 1,566 Democrats, 1,141 Republicans and 612 voters who are unaffiliated.

A state parole and probation officer, Cohen has focused on curbing growth throughout the city, especially in Eastport, once a working-class suburb of Annapolis. The district's water views have drawn wealthy newcomers, and some have ripped down modest homes and bungalows on small lots and replaced them with McMansions.

He ran four years ago on a platform that included preserving Eastport's unique neighborhood scale and character. For two years, he worked with a nine-member panel to develop zoning regulations to meet that end.

The city council will soon vote on those zoning changes, but not until after Tuesday's election. Cohen, though, said he was pleased the bill "achieves consensus" from the Eastport community.

"That's my approach to local government - to keep the community involved," Cohen said.

Both Linton and Cohen support a temporary moratorium on city annexation.

"We need to get a handle on development," said Cohen, who also supports re-examining maritime zoning rules that have gone unchanged since 1987.

Linton said annexation could strain city public facilities. She said raising taxes was not the answer.

"Ms. Moyer and crew have let them go up, up, up," she said. "They get enough tax revenue already."

Agreeing with Cohen on the need for more police officers, Linton also said the city's public housing facilities should be relocated, to instill a new sense of community pride. She said she would also pressure housing authority leaders to enforce tenant rules to keep criminals out.

Linton said she hears many complaints about crime, especially from the elderly.

Cohen has also voiced concerns about crime and recently helped organize a panel discussion on the issue in Eastport.phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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