Race is on for Christman's council seat

Special primary, general election in the works for this year

October 24, 2007|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

With Republican Alderman Michael I. Christman's formal resignation letter barely a day old, the race is already on to find his replacement on the Annapolis city council.

Debbie Rosen McKerrow, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Christman two years ago, confirmed yesterday that she will seek the Ward 2 seat in a special election, the second within a year.

The county's Green Party announced that Karen Jennings, a 33-year-old community activist, will join the race.

A prominent city Republican, Alderman David Cordle, said his party is trying to recruit a candidate.

After months of speculation that Christman would step down, the Republican faxed his resignation letter to Mayor Ellen O. Moyer on Monday afternoon. It was read into the record at the city council meeting that night.

Christman was not in attendance, marking the third consecutive time there had not been a full council.

Christman told constituents, council members and the mayor Oct. 1 that he would be stepping down, but he had not formalized his intention, delaying the expected special election.

In the letter addressed to Moyer, Christman said he had delayed his resignation to "consult further" with the mayor and city legal counsel "as to a time that was in the best interest of the City of Annapolis." He said he would officially step down Friday.

"I am pleased that my last act as an Alderman could be done with consensus and honor," wrote Christman, who criticized a Sun article last week about the alderman's status as "unfortunate and incorrect," and said it contained "partisan accusations from `wannabe' candidates." He did not elaborate and could not reached for comment yesterday.

Christman reached City Administrator Bob Agee by phone shortly before submitting his resignation. Unable to speak with Moyer, he sent her an e-mail.

"I spent a great deal of time after our discussion on the timing with Kat, and we came to this difficult decision," Christman said in the e-mail, referring to his deliberations with his wife. "A quick thanks to you for your efforts and support.

Christman began frequently traveling for his job at a Baltimore-based technology business in recent months. In addition, his wife recently took a job in Australia. His constituents had complained that he wasn't returning their phone calls.

"We have to move on, and the citizens of Ward 2 deserve having an active representative," Cordle said.

The mayor's staff must issue a proclamation to schedule a special election within five business days of a resignation. City spokesman Ray Weaver said that work has begun on the proclamation, and that it would be submitted by Monday.

A special primary must occur within 23 to 30 days of the proclamation, and the general election to occur within 30 days of the primary, city officials said.

The city held a special election in January for the seats vacated by Democrats Wayne Taylor in Ward 4 and Josh Cohen in Ward 8. Taylor joined the Cabinet of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold. Cohen was elected to the County Council. Sheila M. Finlayson and Ross Arnett, both Democrats, were elected to replace Taylor and Cohen, respectively.

Cordle said Republicans intend to field a candidate, although no one has stepped forward. He said the party is looking at two possible candidates. One, whose name Cordle said he could not recall, is serving on the city's Republican Central Committee. The alderman said he is also waiting to hear back from someone he has recruited.

Cliff Myers, chairman of the city's Republican Central Committee, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Jennings, the Green Party candidate, said in a statement that "Annapolis is seeing tremendous change, and Ward 2 deserves a strong, independent advocate to work with its residents to protect and improve our community."

Having run before, McKerrow, 59, president of an estate settlement company, could have a political edge. She lost to Christman by 44 votes in 2005.

McKerrow said residents are concerned about the scope of redevelopment of a popular shopping center at Rowe Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, and about whether the county library on West Street will remain.

She said she was grateful "we can get on with the business of the city and Ward 2 can be part of the business of the city."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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