An environmental scientist from the Green Party, a Republican county prosecutor and a Democratic estate liquidator and former public relations professional are the three candidates on Wednesday's ballot vying to represent Ward 2 on Annapolis' City Council.
They point to their backgrounds as untapped assets on the council.
Ward 2 -- which encompasses the neighborhoods of Admiral Heights, Wardour, West Annapolis and the public housing communities around Clay Street -- was previously represented by Republican Alderman Michael I. Christman, who resigned in late October for personal reasons.
The victor of Wednesday's special election will serve the remainder of Christman's term, which expires in 2009.
In two recent public forums, the candidates -- Karen Jennings of the Green Party, Fred Paone of the Republican Party and Debbie Rosen McKerrow of the Democratic Party -- have addressed the issues they say Ward 2 residents are most concerned with: public safety, traffic and development, and the deterioration of Weems Creek.
According to campaign fund reports filed with the city, the candidates have raised a combined total of about $21,000, with McKerrow leading the pack, having raised just over $11,000. Paone has raised about $6,300, and Jennings has collected nearly $4,000.
McKerrow, 59, narrowly lost to Christman in the last election. She said she would advocate more sidewalks along the West Annapolis business district to encourage walking and alleviate traffic and parking congestion. She also calls for the dredging of Weems Creek, and community policing to combat drug dealing and other crime.
"There's almost anything anyone would need to buy or service they would need to get in the West Annapolis business district," McKerrow said. "So I'm trying to encourage people to walk across Rowe Boulevard and not drive anywhere. And if we had sidewalks, they could walk. But right now it's literally not safe."
McKerrow said a large part of addressing crime in the Clay Street area includes providing better drug treatment options.
"We've got to have better services," McKerrow said. "People should not have to go out of town or out of state for that kind of treatment."
She added: "I have talked about making sure the Annapolis Police Department has the staffing it needs, the latest crime-fighting technology and training. We absolutely have to be committed to that."
Paone, who has served as an assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel County for the last 31 years, has based much of his campaign on combating the city's crime problem and what he said are disproportionately high property taxes.
He said he was inspired to enter the race after being frustrated by actions of the current council.
Fellow Republican Christman has endorsed Paone.
"I'm not happy with the direction of the city," said Paone, 56, who is set to retire from the state's attorney's office in January. "I'm not happy with the actions that the city council has taken and I want to do something about it."
He cited legislation banning toy guns and plastic bags and a resolution regarding questionable behavior by a Naval Academy midshipman, as matters that the council has tackled but are not crucial to city business.
"They are in some cases petty," Paone said. "They are not issues that the city should be interested in."
Instead, Paone said, he would use his experience in the prosecutor's office to tackle the city's crime woes.
"We need to turn young people away from drugs, away from easy money that is supposedly connected to drug dealing and get them trained to be more productive members of society, legitimate members of society. ... Let's talk about issues like that."
Karen Jennings, 33, said she would approach the alderman job as a "mediator," to facilitate "smart development" and deal with restoring trust between the police and residents.
"As a Green Party candidate I would be an independent voice on City Council," Jennings said. "I think I would really be in the best position to serve as a conduit. I'm an environmental scientist. I'm not aspiring to be a career politician and make a name for myself, I really care about my community. I just want to make a difference."
This special election will be the second the city has held this year. In January, the city held a special election for the seats vacated by Democrats Wayne M. 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 H. Arnett III, both Democrats, were elected to replace Taylor and Cohen, respectively.
Ward 2 residents can vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Germantown Elementary School, 1411 Cedar Park Road, and West Annapolis Elementary School, 210 Annapolis St.