In less than 24 hours, the polls will open in Aberdeen and a revolution will be underway to sweep clean City Hall…or voters will show their support for the direction the city has been moving the last two years and return the incumbents to office.
Either way, The Dagger couldn’t pass up a final chance to poke and prod the curious collection of characters that made up this year’s candidate class. Without further ado, we present the 2007 Aberdeen Election Candidate Class Superlatives:
Most Likely to Enroll in Anger Management Classes: Dave Yensan. Yensan’s brutish, impatient approach seemed like a breath of fresh air back in 2005 when he was first elected. But the initial object of his scorn, the screwy Pete Dacey-informed city budget, later gave way to Yensan’s broader role as Fred’s constant Yesman. His intensely emotional mood swings are still a sight to behold and certainly inject adrenaline into otherwise dull legislative matters, we just wish he’d give up his role as Councilman Yesman and would hurl some of that venom Simmons’ way once in awhile.
Most Musical: Mike Hiob. Harford County’s own Martin O’Malley, sans biceps, has been playing with his band at bars, parties, and political fundraisers (on both sides of the aisle) for years. After initially butting heads with S. Fred, this two-term leading vote getter changed his tune and has been singing along with the mayor ever since. Popular, personable, a good public speaker, and an OK-looking dude, Hiob has upper party mobility written all over him as far as state Democrats are concerned. Question is, do Aberdeen voters still like what they hear?
Most Likely to Finish College: Nicole Burlew. Burlew didn’t exactly cause the stir we’d have hoped for from an idealistic 19-year-old mayoral candidate, and her presence in the race will most likely split the anti-Fred vote, giving Bennett two years to consider running again. Would have been more fun if Burlew’s statement had extended beyond actually filing to run for office. Here’s our bet, though, that she’ll finish up her studies and return in a few years, maybe with a bit more swagger.
Closest to God: Alfred Bell. A deacon at Helping Hands Ministry, Bell was also a shoo-in for our ‘Most Pious’ award. Unfortunately for Bell, his connectedness to a Higher Power didn’t exactly translate into a connectedness with the Aberdeen electorate. Barring an act of God, it is still the citizens of Aberdeen and not the Lord Almighty who decide whether Bell makes it into City Hall.
Most Likely to Save You From a Highjacker: S. Fred Simmons. Poised for another round of irrefutable growth, Aberdeen made the transition from military base backwater to complex community years ago; the city’s two-year term limits should have long since followed suit. The daring, dashing S. Fred was man enough to take risks and tackle serious issues from the moment he set up his “War Room” at city hall. And though his manner might be a bit roguish and his philosophies a bit dark, he’s been a full-time mayor and has brought real change to Aberdeen. He also comes replete with an entourage of city police escorts, the police chief as a personal chauffeur, a strap-on firearm, license to pilot an airplane, license to ride a motorcycle, fresh ink on his arm and has been known to introduce himself by performing magic tricks and sleights of hand with a deck of cards.
Most Likely to Speak Whenever Given the Opportunity: Ruth Elliott. This former mayor is running for re-election to the city council and if you’re wondering why, just ask her yourself, although you’ll probably still be getting an earful long after the results of the Nov. 6 election are history. Never one to shy away from public speaking or demur in front of a microphone, Elliott has made a career out of speaking her mind – even at the risk of sounding out of her mind. She unfalteringly exceeded her allotted time period to respond to questions during the Candidate Forum and refused to sit down until she felt she had satisfactorily answered the query. What’s more, Elliott reliably chews up more of the game clock during council meetings, public hearings, exchanges of pleasantries and any other occasion involving her and speech. To her credit, she has built up something of a loyal fan base among those who have longed for such a never-ending voice in City Hall.
Most Admired: Ruth Ann Young. Young has for years been a local watchdog, tracking the city’s every move, and doing her level best to keep a fire lit under the council members. Over time, her research skills have been come sharper, her public speaking abilities more astute. There’s nothing we like more than watching someone we admire as a thinker face the daunting transition into public life, as we did with S. Fred two years ago.
Compassionate Conservatism Award, Runner-up: Ron Kupferman. Every two years Kup winds up the old motor, greases his gears and gets the engine humming at full speed – just in time to launch his re-election campaign. Like clockwork, you can count on Kup to mellow out, begin to separate himself from some unpopular issues and crank out his greatest hits (tax refunds, annexation reform, water into wine). You’ve got to hand it to him though; some candidates don’t care about their constituents’ voices at all. At least Kup is compassionate, and politically savvy, enough to tune in every couple of years.
Biggest Flirt: Steve Johnson. Far and away the biggest tease of the group, Johnson flirted with city council candidacy for the last month and led all of us along with his on-again, off-again relationship. Typical of previous ‘Biggest Flirt’ winners, you could never tell whose bedroom Johnson was going to wake up in next. Whether it was an Aberdeen apartment, a Perryman pad or maybe just a spare closet in one of Art Helton’s downtown offices, Johnson certainly did get around.
The Young George Washington Award: Mike Bennett. “I cannot tell a lie.” Those words were supposedly famously uttered by our nation’s first president in his youth when he purportedly cut down his father’s prized cherry tree with a shiny new hatchet. This year’s version of a similar quote came from mayoral challenger Bennett when he told us, “I and a couple of co-workers got our hands wrapped around 19 or 20 questions of a 120-question test.” Just like that Bennett, much like the young Washington a century or so earlier, proudly admitted his guilt (in this instance copying the answers to a Maryland State Police sergeant’s exam) in an attempt to bravely confront his accusers and move on with his candidacy. It remains to be seen whether his campaign, which adopted the motto, “It’s all about TRUST,” will ultimately benefit or be hurt by his admission.
Most Likely to Have a Cameo Role in the Next Scorsese Movie: Rick Denu. A former Aberdeen police officer who saw the worst the city had to offer and now is back to roll up his sleeves and tackle political corruption from the inside out, Denu is the clear choice for a supporting role in the next major mob movie. Not only does he have the New York affiliation, slick looks, sharp suit, eye-catching wife, sleek-black sport utility vehicle with tinted windows and a family large enough to make the mob proud, but Denu has the dirt on everyone on the inside – and that makes him dangerous.
The Candidate Who Deserves Better Than to be Lumped in with this Crew: Janice Grant. A civil rights activist, founder of the locally-based civil rights advocacy group Grass Roots Steering Foundation and NAACP leader, Grant certainly seems to be the odd duck among the candidates running for elected office in Aberdeen. And we mean that in the best possible way. While the other candidates are thoroughly soiled from the slung mud and dealing with their own host of improbable issues (one mayoral candidate can’t legally buy beer, another can legally carry around a gun and the third is an admitted cheat), Grant always maintains her grace and composure and stays above the petty bickering. She also always loses. It seems like only in Aberdeen can a candidate with a legitimate history for fighting for what’s right and creating positive change, be written off as a perennial loser. Surely Grant deserves better.
Most Likeable Candidate, Who Most Likely Will Lose: Bernard DeWitt. Ask 100 people about the candidates in the 2007 class and you’re likely to get 100 different responses, but there seems to be one universally-liked prospect among them – DeWitt. This Gulf War veteran dresses well, speaks well and has a personality to match his appearance – classy and professional. He is in his early 40s, but DeWitt has that ageless look about him. He could fit in playing ball with the kids at the high school or moving pieces around on the chess board at the Senior Center. His Army training shines through when you talk to the guy and hear how respectful and humble he is. Even though he has been linked to Art Helton and the Democratic machine, you never hear anybody utter an ill word about this guy. The problem is he might just be too nice. When it comes to picking a leader for City Hall, people usually want a fighter over a lover. Hopefully for DeWitt, tradition won’t hold true and this nice guy won’t finish last.
We Hardly Knew Ye: Bruce Garner. What can we say? Really, we don’t have much to say. Garner came across as a likeable everyman during his comments at the FOP 128 Candidates Forum. He’s been a resident and local business owner for awhile and hasn’t aligned him with any parties or entities during this election. Unfortunately, that usually spells doom for a relatively unknown candidate who, on this election eve, still remains largely unknown.
Class Clown: The Dagger. Who else?