To win a seat on the Annapolis city council, candidates say they've relied on tried-and-true shoe-leather politics.
Eight men running for four seats have been spending days knocking on doors, trying to reach the estimated 8,000 voters who will cast ballots in Tuesday's city elections.
"It's a lot of doors," said Kurt Riegel, a Democrat who is trying to unseat Republican Alderman Fred Paone in Ward 2. He jokes that behind half the doors "is a small and angry dog that wants to kill me."
Paone's been knocking, too: "I'm using everything possible to make sure people know there's an election and to get out the vote."
Door-knocking can help voters put a face to a name, said Allen Furth, a Republican challenger in Ward 1. "Doing the door-to-door, I'm showing them I'm like you, I care about the city," he said.
That personal contact can make a difference in Annapolis, where the votes in aldermanic races rarely reach into the thousands. Elections can be decided by just a few dozen ballots cast. Alderman Ian Pfeiffer knows this first-hand: When he ran the first time in 2009, he won by 60 votes.
"There's something very appealing to know the 1,000 to 1,500 people in the ward who are likely to come out," Pfeiffer said.
Four seats on the council are contested this year: In Ward 1, incumbent Democratic Alderman Joe Budge is challenged by Republican Furth; In Ward 2, incumbent Republican Paone is challenged by Democrat Riegel; In Ward 6, incumbent Democratic Alderman Kenneth Kirby is challenged by independent candidate Steven Conn; and in Ward 7, incumbent Democrat Pfeiffer is challenged by Republican James T. Clenny.
Budge, a Democrat, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council this spring, and he hopes to earn a four-year term representing Ward 1, which includes downtown Annapolis and neighborhoods along West Street. A retired software executive, he has been involved in downtown Annapolis issues for a decade, serving on committees and leading the Ward One Residents Association.
The top issues he wants to address are improving City Dock with an emphasis on parking, paying for new promises to better fund retiree pension plans, improving transportation and putting vacant buildings in the ward back into use.
"Annapolis is a town where you can make a difference, and that's what I'm trying to do," he said.
Furth, a Republican, has lived in Annapolis since graduating from college 25 years ago. He's served on the Annapolis Board of Supervisors of Elections and on Anne Arundel County's personnel board.
He has a degree in engineering and works for a contractor, and he believes his business and construction experience will be an asset to the city — especially with big projects such as replacing the City Dock bulkhead and replacing the Hillman Garage on the horizon.
"I can offer a perspective to some of the things that nobody else has had on the council," he said.
Ward 2's current alderman, Paone, is the only Republican on the city council and he often finds himself as the sole "no" vote. Paone says that's a mark of his independence, while his challenger, Riegel, says it's an example of Paone's unwillingness to compromise.
Riegel, who has been an environmental activist, said he was motivated to run because he felt Paone has not been responsive to constituents in Ward 2, which includes West Annapolis, Admiral Heights and Clay Street.
"Basically, if it represents change, Fred is against it," Riegel said.
"I'm nobody's rubber stamp," Paone said. "One of my jobs is to make sure that the issues in the city are exposed and are properly brought to light in a transparent way, and to make people understand that there's more than one point of view on the council."