It was a beautiful Election Day in Havre de Grace on Tuesday; it seems like it is every year, although maybe that’s because I still have lingering frostbite from the frigid Aberdeen Election Day of this past November.
This was a strange election for Havre de Grace, really unlike any other I can remember from my 8 years or so covering elections in Harford County. There were no issues that truly caught traction, no real spats or bad blood between any of the candidates (at least none which was spilled publicly) and no one running for office with a bold plan for change.
With that in mind, there was mixed sentiment about the 1,029 votes cast Tuesday in the election. Some were thrilled to at least see that 1,000 people in the city cared enough to vote in a non-mayoral year, while others pointed out there were many thousands more in Havre de Grace who couldn’t be bothered, even on a beautiful spring day, to come out and vote.
The absentee and provisional ballots still need to be counted and the official results won’t be read until the May 19 city council meeting, but the outcome of this race isn’t going to change – Miller, Martin and Cullum will soon be sitting at the dais as city councilmen.
Now, without further ado, here are some quick observations gleaned from a few hours spent Tuesday on Pennington Avenue:
– Sunday night’s candidate forum at the city police station was said to have been something of a bust. At least one of the candidates was out of town and couldn’t participate and estimates put it at maybe 15 people who attended. There has already been some rumblings about getting some new, unaffiliated faces to step up and organize a forum next year. Anyone interested in seeing how a Dagger-hosted forum would turn out? I can tell you one thing, a Dagger forum wouldn’t be held at 8 p.m. Sunday – commencing 36 hours before the polls open.
– John Correri may be on a losing streak, having dropped 3 consecutive races in bids for Harford County Council, Havre de Grace Mayor and now Havre de Grace City Council, but don’t feel sorry for him. He went through a very rough period recently with a health scare and the death of his mother, but is back on his feet, looking and feeling better than ever. Seriously, it was a warm day and John is a big boy, but he was smiling and moving around like I’ve never seen before. Correri told me he decided to run for office when someone from city hall pointed out only two other people had filed. He knew his chances weren’t all that good, but Correri was having a great time Tuesday waving and talking to people. It was hard not to cheer for the guy.
– Dagger faithful RichieC made an appearance and spent some time talking with the few candidates who had refused, until that point, to address the beleaguered boater’s concerns. I’m told at least one candidate had a lengthy, rational discussion with RichieC, the two were actually able to come to an understanding and RichieC left happy. Imagine that, someone addressing the concerns of a would-be constituent instead of ignoring or running from them and it actually resulted in a positive outcome – who would have thought?
– Every year there is one candidate who outworks, outhussles, outlasts, outwits and outsurvives his competitors. This year that candidate was Bill Martin and he was rewarded with a seat on the city council for the next two years. Martin had the kind of second-degree sunburn on his face that only develops after spending about 12 hours a day outside for a few weeks. An interesting anecdote he passed along: Martin’s campaign had about 7,200 postcards printed and sent out to all the registered voters in Havre de Grace. Each postcard had his web site address printed on the front and back along with a message urging those holding the postcard to log on and visit him on the Internet. So how many of the 7,200 people actually visited Martin’s web site? In total, 32 people. Also, Martin wanted to set the record straight on those who were certain his landslide victory in the Dagger pre-election poll was a result of him mobilizing his Aberdeen Middle School students to log on and vote. As Martin correctly pointed out, that Dagger poll wasn’t posted online until Friday night and Martin was already bringing in big numbers well before he and his students returned to class Monday morning.
– One-time council candidate Kalman Reigelhaupt spent much of the day beside City Councilman Jim Miller, but took some time to talk politics, local and national, with a former local newspaper editor. While he wouldn’t say specifically why he decided to drop out of this year’s race, Kal mentioned that he was getting tired and old – but that he could probably still have torn up all the candidates in the race. I’d have to agree. For those of you who know Kal only as the scruffy, grumbling guy who stumbles into and out of city council meetings on his own clock, there’s much that you’re missing. There’s something to be said for ‘new blood,’ but Reigelhaupt is almost literally from a dying breed and his perspective and local history lessons alone should be very valuable to Havre de Grace and it’s elected officials.
– Although he garnered the fewest votes among the field of candidates, Jim Walker didn’t seem to mind much. He was happy just to be able to spend a beautiful day off work with his wife and family. Walker also framed the race and his candidacy in an interesting way. They way he saw it, there were the 3 ‘new blood’ candidates endorsed by the local newspaper and the 3 ‘old guard’ candidates purportedly supported by Harford County Executive and former Havre de Grace Mayor David Craig. And then there was Candidate 7 – Jim Walker – who said he had no allegiances or alliances and didn’t fall into either of the ‘new blood’ or ‘old guard’ contingents. It’s an interesting strategy to remain completely unattached to any group or issue, but it also leaves you without a built in constituency – as Walker saw when he brought in just 174 votes.
– There was no repeat of last year’s performance when failed city council candidate Buddy Schweers backed his truck up into a telephone pole in the middle of the parking lot outside the voting booths, but there was a little excitement of the same ilk. Apparently, a car backed up into another car in the same parking lot, but the damage wasn’t serious and there were no injuries.
– For all the talk of there being no bad blood between any of the candidates, there sure was a lot of grumbling and whispering along Pennington Avenue on Election Day. Several of the ‘old guard’ candidates grumbled about how the ‘new blood’ is celebrated each year as the change Havre de Grace needs and a few of the ‘new blood’ candidates rolled their eyes and whispered about how some of the more ‘seasoned’ candidates should know when to call it quits. Despite being crammed into a smaller area, there were also surprisingly few instances of candidates arguing over tent location or sign placement.
– Recognizable faces in the crowd:
County Executive David Craig greeted me and then later scolded me when he mistakenly thought I was jotting down something he had just mumbled under his breath.
Mayor Wayne Dougherty met with each candidate at their tents before the results were announced and was among the first to congratulate the winners and console the losers after the fact. City Council members Randy Craig and Barbara Ferguson made the rounds as well, but I didn’t see fellow council members Steve Gamatoria, Garrett Lyttle or Joe Kochenderfer while I was around.
The wife and family of Aberdeen City Councilman Mike Hiob were out in full force and each was wearing a Bill Martin shirt. I have it from a good source that Hiob’s son, Adam, might have Martin as a government teacher at Aberdeen Middle School. But where was the pater familias on election night? Apparently, Mike Hiob was at some kind of function for Del. Mary-Dulany James and didn’t get a chance to celebrate Martin’s victory with the rest of his family.
Anyone else have any interesting observations to share?
Just over 1000 voters cast their ballots Tuesday night. How does this compare to the poll that we ran here over the weekend on The Dagger? 80 people “voted” on The Dagger, which is a pretty good sample size. Here were the final results of our poll:
Hmm, maybe CNN and FoxNews should be calling us for our predictions in the national race? 🙂