More than 2,500 Aberdeen voters cast a ballot Tuesday, a greater number than participated in the record-setting pace of the December 2006 special election, flushing Mayor S. Fred Simmons and his right-hand man Councilman Dave Yensan out of office and ushering in a new era for the city with Mike Bennett as mayor and first-time candidate Ruth Ann Young joining incumbents Ruth Elliott, Ron Kupferman and Mike Hiob on the council.
With just 68 absentee ballots left to count Tuesday night and an undisclosed number of provisional votes to be tallied Thursday morning, the results of the 2007 Aberdeen municipal election are unlikely to change.
Elliott, who considered running for mayor herself about a year ago, garnered 150 more votes than Bennett, even though she ran in a field of 10 from which voters could select 4 candidates. Bennett collected about 400 more votes than Simmons and 19-year-old challenger Nicole Burlew didn’t have the impact many hoped she might – bringing in fewer than 200 votes.
Council candidate Bernard DeWitt finished 63 votes behind Hiob, who took the fourth spot on the council. It is unlikely DeWitt will be able to make up the difference with the absentee and provisional ballots. Hiob had been the leading vote-getter in each of his two prior elections, but this go-round was just barely able to survive being taken down with the anti-Simmons/Yensan ticket with which he was linked. Council candidate Rick Denu finished in sixth place and 34 votes behind DeWitt. Yensan finished in a disappointing 8th place out of the 10 council candidates and 21 votes behind first-time candidate Bruce Garner.
Election Day began with rain, was punctuated by a boy playing violin on a street corner and the traffic-weaving antics of a loose dog and ended with tears in the eyes of both the victorious and defeated.
The announcement of the vote totals was much less dramatic than previous years as the numbers were taped up on a wall of the Senior Center as they came out of the voting machines. As such, the writing was literally on the wall after the first few machines tallies had been posted.
Speaking with the soon-to-be-former mayor as he was told he had lost by a sizable margin in each of the first seven or so voting machines, Simmons told me there is greater poetry in his losing the race. It brought to mind a frequent saying of his, “The people get the government they deserve.”
Simmons said he has no plans to remain involved in city politics, will not accept a local or state government appointment and is content at having done the best job he could do for Aberdeen.
It remains to be seen whether the Bennett administration, with Elliott almost certainly serving as council president, will maintain some of Simmons’ most productive and questionable initiatives.
Will Aberdeen continue to pursue the sale of Ripken Stadium? Will the city continue to look to the bay for the future source of its drinking water? What will become of the $100,000 surveillance camera wall and program in Aberdeen? How about the long-ballyhooed Matrix – an end-all-be-all to solving annexation problems, which never materialized? Will the city continue with its Unity in the Community events? Will the police department’s Rapid Response Team continue to have the funding and carte blanche support to clean up Aberdeen? Will the ‘War Room’ stay as Fred set it up? Will the giant bell Fred hung up in City Hall remain? What city department heads and officials will be next to go?
Mike Bennett – 1,323
Nicole Burlew – 181
S. Fred Simmons – 908
Alfred Bell – 333
Rick Denu – 829
Bernard DeWitt – 863
Ruth Elliott – 1,484
Bruce Garner – 698
Janice Grant – 428
Mike Hiob – 926
Ron Kupferman – 1,113
Dave Yensan – 677
Ruth Ann Young – 970