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In Annapolis, mayoral contest is a developing matter

Four men and one woman are vying for perhaps the trickiest job in Annapolis: mayor.

The state’s capital has been buzzing in recent months over proposals to adopt a new plan to guide future development at City Dock and to rezone key waterfront properties downtown.

Meanwhile, residents have raised concerns about a major development proposed for the edge of town, and the city is still recovering from the economic downturn.

“Much of these last four years, I’ve been trying to fix a lot of things that weren’t right,” said Mayor Josh Cohen, a Democrat who is seeking re-election.

Cohen is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Bevin Buchheister, an attorney who is president of downtown’s Ward One Residents Association.

In the Republican primary, three are vying for the nomination: business consultant Bob O’Shea, software salesman Mike Pantelides and Frank Bradley, a retiree best known as a popular local Santa Claus.

The primary election is Sept. 17, with the general election on Nov. 5.

Cohen acknowledges that some voters disagree with some of his positions, such as pushing to rezone part of Compromise Street along the downtown waterfront to spur a redevelopment project, and offering general support for the concept of Crystal Spring, a major development proposed for Forest Drive.

But he said he’s tried to bring people with differing opinions together, rather than “catering to the ‘no’ crowd.”

“We need a reasoned approach that doesn’t demonize developers and represents the concerns of the community,” he said.

Cohen touts accomplishments such as balancing the city’s budget, starting the Circulator shuttle bus, restarting road and sidewalk repairs and the “clean and green” initiative to spruce up public areas.

The four challengers running for mayor sounded a common theme in interviews with The Baltimore Sun: They don’t believe Cohen is running the city well, as evidenced by issues such as discord over City Dock, the struggle to reopen downtown’s Market House and disagreement over Crystal Spring, they said.

Democratic challenger Buchheister has seen the issues as a frequent visitor to city council meetings on behalf of the Ward One Residents Association, where she serves as president. She said she has gotten plenty of encouragement to run.

“I’m just increasingly frustrated with the way the city is run,” she said. “I figured I should jump in and offer my services to the city.”

Buchheister said as mayor, she’d rely on the skills she’s honed dealing with state lawmakers. She’s Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which helps state lawmakers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia craft environmental laws. Before that, she was chief of staff to the chairwoman of the House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee.

“I do know how to run a good process and bring people together,” she said.

Republican O’Shea said the city needs to slow down and rethink the City Dock master plan and the rezoning that Cohen is pushing.

“Where did we get this consensus that this is what the people of Annapolis wanted?” he asked.

O’Shea worries the city may act too rashly and open the door to oversized buildings that people don’t like. He said his experience in business — he’s a consultant for manufacturing companies in the defense and medical industries — would carry over to how he’d run the city.

“I’m a serious candidate for a serious job,” he said.

Pantelides said he first considered running for mayor four years ago, but instead learned the ropes working on failed Republican mayoral candidate David Cordle’s campaign.

A lifelong Annapolis resident, Pantelides got an early taste for politics through his father, John Pantelides, who is well known locally as a consultant for developers. John Pantelides ran for Congress when Mike Pantelides was 3 years old.

Pantelides said he’s frustrated with the way the city operates, particularly what he sees as a lack of transparency and openness. That includes public meetings as well as no-bid contracts, he said. In addition to settling the discord over City Dock, rezoning and Crystal Spring, Pantelides said he’d work to improve the climate for businesses.

“There’s a stigma about Annapolis that it’s not friendly to do business in,” he said.

Bradley may be known best in Annapolis as Santa Claus, but he’s also outspoken on political issues, particularly the Constitution. When he passes out candy canes to children, he gives pocket copies of the Constitution to adults.

“Everyone knows me as Santa. They don’t know I was active in political actions,” said Bradley, who served on the Annapolis Republican Central Committee.

He said as mayor, he would try to get rid of city workers’ unions and “clean house” in city government, wouldn’t support giving tax money to charity and would seek open bids for all city contracts.

Since he filed to run just before Monday night’s deadline, Bradley has been brushing up on local issues, too.

“I voice my opinions. Some people like it, some don’t. I don’t care,” he said.

Alderman races

In addition to the mayoral race, Annapolis voters will select eight aldermen to sit on the city council. Thirteen candidates filed to run, but there will be just two contested primaries: the Democratic primaries for Ward 1 and Ward 2.

Candidates for aldermen include:

Ward 1

  • *Joe Budge, Democrat.
  • Thomas McCarthy, Democrat.

Ward 2

  • Timothy Mennuti, Democrat.
  • Kurt Riegel, Democrat.
  • * Fred Paone, Republican.

Ward 3

  • Rhonda Pindell Charles, Democrat.

Ward 4

  • * Sheila Finlayson, Democrat.

Ward 5

  • * Jared Littmann, Democrat.

Ward 6

  • * Kenneth A. Kirby, Democrat.
  • Steve Conn, unafilliated.

Ward 7

  • * Ian Pfeiffer, Democrat.
  • James T. Clenny, Republican.

Ward 8

  • * Ross Arnett, Democrat.

The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 17, with the general election on Nov. 5.

Information about all mayoral, City Council and party central committee candidates is posted at www.annapolis.gov under the "city elections" section.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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