As of 9 o’clock this morning life is officially back to normal in Aberdeen.
Well, as normal as can be expected in a city where the gun-toting, airplane-flying mayor is being taken on by a 19-year-old college student, the best source of potable water is straight from the Bay and a Hall of Fame baseball player has nearly bankrupt the place.
Ignoring the advice of his lawyer and legal counsel, who still believe his case to be winnable, Steve Johnson, the would-be city council candidate who may or may not live in Aberdeen, has decided to officially abandon his quest to appear on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
That’s right, I said Nov. 6. Because of Johnson’s decision to withdraw his injunction, he believes the election can proceed as originally planned instead of being postponed until February 2008 or later.
“More important than my candidacy is for this election to go off on time,” Johnson said in an interview Sunday afternoon.
After learning Friday that Harford County Circuit Court Judge Steve Waldron was leaving his candidacy up to the Aberdeen City Council itself, in its role as the Board of Appeals, Johnson decided to pull out rather than fight what would likely have been a long and costly battle – not just for him, but for the other 12 candidates running for office.
“I think that might alter the natural outcome of the election and that’s something I don’t want to be responsible for,” Johnson said.
Johnson still contends his injunction and threats of appeal weren’t about him and his personal candidacy, but were always about due process, which he doesn’t think he could or would ever get from the current city administration.
“It’s a tough thing when you know your Constitutional rights are being trampled upon,” he added.
In fact, Johnson alleged any delays in the election stem from the actions of the city council. He said he twice tried to meet with the Board of Elections regarding his candidacy and residency issues, but was never offered a meeting.
Johnson also speculated some of the incumbents running for re-election might have been banking on a few extra months of campaign time if the election were postponed.
“I think [Mayor S. Fred] Simmons knows he’s lost and he’d like nothing more than another election,” Johnson said.
Johnson has known Simmons for more than two decades, but he said it didn’t take long after Fred was elected mayor for Johnson to lose faith in his friend.
“His ego has overshadowed all his good traits,” he added.
Johnson also said other candidates jumped on his injunction as a means to launch their own sputtering campaigns. For instance, several candidates started pulling up their campaign signs Friday after the Circuit Court hearing and began complaining about how Johnson was personally delaying the election for months – which he said was all a publicity stunt.
“That was a ploy. They pulled them up in a certain area for 30 minutes,” he added.
With hope of appearing on the municipal election ballot a thing of the past, Johnson said he will focus on helping out several candidates in whom he believes.
“I’m gonna refocus my energies on backing some candidates who will bring back honesty to city hall and invite citizens back into their government,” he said.
Specifically, Johnson said he will be supporting mayoral candidate Mike Bennett, incumbent councilwoman Ruth Elliott and council candidates Bernard DeWitt and Rick Denu.
His short-lived candidacy now officially over, Johnson said he had not raised any money before the Oct. 9 campaign financing report deadline. He is also unsure of how the situation will impact his role or efficacy as the chairman of the city’s Economic Development Commission.
“This administration has a history of being vindictive, going after people and getting retaliation for things,” he said.
On that note, Johnson pointed out a worrisome item on the Aberdeen City Council’s agenda for tonight – a list of appointments, typically conducted in June, but held off for some reason until just a few weeks before the election.
“You just never know with these folks,” he said.