In what was arguably a stunning early development, state Sen. John Astle conceded to Annapolis businessman Gavin Buckley 45 minutes after the primary election polls closed Tuesday.
The result sets up a mayoral contest between Buckley, a Democrat, and Republican Mayor Mike Pantelidies in the Nov. 7 general election.
Just after Astle conceded at 8:45 p.m., Buckley began celebrating at his restaurant Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge surrounded by his supporters. They wrote early numbers on a chalkboard, which showed a large lead over Astle. Buckley received 2,362 votes to Astle's 1,455.
Buckley thanked his wife, his business partners, his volunteers and supporters. Before his speech, he marveled at the results.
"I'm still in a bit of a rush," Buckley said. "How do you beat a guy with the whole machine behind him?"
Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch made an appearance and gave his full support to Buckley and pledged to raise "a lot of money."
After his concession, Astle pledged his support to Buckley as well. Astle wouldn't commit to running for state Senate again but said he would "take a look."
"I took this on and I worked as hard as I could but ultimately the people decide," Astle said. "(Buckley) presented his side to the people and overwhelmingly that's what they want.
"I did the best I could."
Pantelides defeated challenger Nevin Young, an Annapolis attorney. Pantelides was confident in this race and had declared his watch party a "victory party" before the polls closed. The vote total: Pantelides, 1,016; Young, 146.
"I want to thank the voters for supporting my vision for Annapolis," Pantelides said. "Being mayor of my hometown is a dream come true. I look forward to facing Gavin in the general election. Hopefully it is a positive race focused on ideas."
The following are results from wards that had contested primaries.
Democratic challenger Elly Tierney defeated incumbent Alderman Joe Budge 596 votes to 224.
Neither candidate could be reached Tuesday night.
Incumbent Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson declared victory over challenger Toni Strong Pratt. Finlayson won by 19 votes, 172 to 153.
"It was a hard-fought race, but I am glad the community decided to go with experience and trusted leadership," Finlayson said.
Strong Pratt said she was waiting for absentee ballots to be counted and declined to comment about Finlayson's declaration.The winner of this race is expected to win the general as there is no Republican challenger.
Shaneka Henson declared victory over DaJuan Gay in the Ward 6 race. She received 221 votes to his 103.
"It is wonderful, I am humbled by the support of the voters in Ward 6," Henson said.
Gay conceded that Henson won the race "fair and square." The college student said his focus now turned to being a good citizen.
"It was a good race, it got dirty at the end," Gay said. "Now to measure what I can do not as a candidate but as a citizen."
Environmentalist Rob Savidge won the Ward 7 Democratic primary with 258 votes. His challenger, Alexus Viegas, received 136 votes.
Neither candidate responded to requests for comment.
Incumbent Alderman Ross Arnett declared victory over Democratic challenger John "Bumper" Moyer. Arnett received 412 votes to Moyer's 282.
In an email sent to constituents, Arnett looked forward to the general election. He will face Republican challenger Julie Mussog in the general election.
"After a slow start, Ward 8 cast the most votes of any ward," Arnett said in the email. "Now it's on to November with my great support team headed by Lee Finney and Jean McCoy, but many, many others."
Moyer said he did the best he could and was happy with his showing despite losing.
"Ross ran a good, honorable campaign," Moyer said. "I don't think there was anything I could have done to close the gap."
When the polls closed in Annapolis at 8 p.m., turnout was higher than 2013 thanks to multiple contested Democratic City Council primaries and contested mayoral races, according to early turnout results.
As of 7 p.m., about 23.3 percent of registered Annapolitans voted in the primary or about 300 more than in 2013. Those numbers are expected to rise with the final counts.
The higher turnout is likely due to several contested primary elections. Ward 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 all had Democratic contested races compared to just two wards in 2013. Wards 4 and 6 didn't have any Republican opponents.
Some anticipated this election would generate increased voter involvement due to the competitive Democratic primary between Astle and Buckley. The two, with signs dotting the city, have energized pools of Annapolis voters.
Buckley has been lauded as a change agent who helped redevelop downtown West Street. Voters who have supported Buckley are looking for someone outside the political spectrum who might bring new ideas to the city.
Faith Commodore, 61, has lived in Annapolis her whole life. She voted for Buckley.
"I don't feel like (the City Council is) looking out for the poor and underprivileged," Commodore said.
Astle's supporters viewed his political experience and long-tenure in Annapolis as a solid foundation to tackle the city's budget, halt oversized developments and increase enforcement on rising violent crimes.
In the Republican mayoral race, Pantelides faced off against Young. Young's campaign was much smaller than the mayor's, who spent tens of thousands of dollars. Pantelides called his watch party Tuesday a "victory party."
Tuesday will prove the deciding factor in Ward 4 and Ward 6. These wards don't have Republican challengers so it is unlikely the Democratic winner will lose in the general election.
In Ward 4, Finlayson faced Democratic challenger Strong Pratt.
Strong Pratt had several supporters waving signs along the streets of Forest Drive. Part of her campaign included the city increasing involvement with the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis and its Newtowne 20 community, which is within the ward. She also called for Annapolis police officers to be outside of their cars longer than the mandated 45 minute minimum as part of its community policing efforts.
Finlayson also called for investment into public housing communities with specific mention to find development partners for the Newtowne 20 community off Newtowne Drive. The old public housing community has several closed units and has electrical problems.
As Public Safety Committee chairwoman, Finlayson has been active in the city's push toward community policing. She spearheaded discussions after the city saw a spike in violent crime and had a record year of homicides in 2016.
In Ward 6, Henson, an attorney, and Gay vied for the seat vacated by Alderman Kenny Kirby. Kirby, who announced he would not be seeking re-election, is finishing out his term.
Henson was waving signs at the Mt. Moriah AME Church alongside Annapolis resident Fran Hinson. Hinson voted for Henson because she felt she was the right person for the job.
"Communities like Bay Ridge Gardens are losing their after-school programs," Hinson said. "She can do something about that."
Gay was campaigning at the Eastport Community Center nestled among the Eastport Terrace and Harbour House communities. Holding a megaphone, Gay thanked voters walking into the center.
"This is a grassroots campaign," Gay said. "If we can get new people to vote, increase turnout, I think we have a chance."
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Staff writer Danielle Ohl contributed to this story.