A candidate for Westminster’s Common Council said Tuesday that a vote for Mona Becker, who was facing Dennis Dillon in the city’s mayoral election, would be a rejection of negativity.
If that’s the case, Westminster voters did reject negativity on Tuesday. Resoundingly.
Becker, a former councilmember, was elected the city’s first female mayor with 1,020 votes to Dillon’s 591 to cap a contentious and controversial campaign that resulted in 1,619 ballots being cast, a more than 50% increase over the number cast during the last mayoral election.
Becker said she was elated after hearing the results at the new city administrative building at about 10:30 Tuesday night.
“The number of people who just came out to express support for me, it’s outstanding,” she said.
“It’s one of the biggest mayoral victories in Westminster history,” Robert Wack, former council president of Westminster, added. “And it’s a really big referendum on this community’s values.”
Three candidates were vying for two spots on the Westminster Common Council. Newcomer Dan Hoff received the most votes with 1,264 while incumbent Tony Chiavacci easily earned a fourth term with 1,250 votes. Morgan Barkley-Mathers finished with 366 votes.
Hoff said he was thrilled, honored and happy to be working with the rest of the council. But he’s even happier for Becker as the city’s first female mayor. He said it sends a message that Westminster can make its own decisions and does not need to be influenced by the outside community.
Although it’s Chiavacci’s fourth time winning a city council election he was “just as nervous this time as I was the first time.” He said he’s thrilled for Becker and Hoff for winning. And grateful to voters for electing him another four years.
Becker was at the Westminster fire station — one of two polling places for the Westminster election — at around 1 p.m. She said throughout Tuesday’s election day she had been receiving positive reaction from voters. She was standing next to Hoff, who said voters have “not really been happy with how negative the [mayoral] campaign became.”
Becker said voters have been impressed with how she has remained positive throughout the process. She added she hasn’t “stooped to the level of my opponent.” Which is tempting to do, Hoff added.
Hoff said he wants to get things accomplished if elected “without screaming and yelling. Quite frankly, if Dillon gets elected there will be a lot of drama.”
However, he said if Dillon was elected, he’d have to sit down with him and clear the air, although there were things Dillon has done he did not respect or like.
Becker said if she were to lose, her life wouldn’t be much different. She would continue staying involved in the community. She said voters have told her it’s their first time voting and they are voting for her.
“It’s a rejection of the negativity,” Hoff added.
Dillon, who was at the community building at the municipal swimming pool voting location at around 3 p.m., said he had been getting dirty looks and thinks his words have been taken out of context. However, he said he thought the election was going smoothly.
He said if he didn’t win, he would not have any animosity and would offer his help to anyone who wants it. He added he’d be “happy to sit down with them to move the city forward.” Dillon also added people misquote him and talk about him when they do not know him.
He said he spoke to a voter he has known for 15 years who does not usually vote but was surprised about what was said about Dillon.
Katharine Dahlberg was the 500th voter at the pool. She said she voted for Dillon and Chiavacci.
“I was motivated to vote because of all the things that he stands for that I agree with,” she said about Dillon.
The 501st voter at the swimming pool, Jean Hammond, said she also voted for Dillon.
“I thought he was the best qualified,” she said. “I think he would make the best mayor.”
Bob Leatherwood, chairman of Carroll Republican Victory, said at the fire station underneath a Dennis Dillon tent, “after this is all over, I hope we can get along better,” later adding that “doesn’t mean next time we won’t run another partisan election.”
“They should get used to it,” he said.
Across from Dillon’s tent was Chiavacci’s base.
“I think people came out for the right reasons,” his wife, Kelly, said.
She added later that as many times as her husband has run — this being his fourth Town Council race — “it’s never been like this,” and she does not like it.
Tony Chiavacci said later the election has a different feel that he does not like and mentioned the “partisan-y” and “outside-y” involvement. However, he said it’s been positive overall.
Chiavacci said if he did not win he has a pretty robust life outside of city politics, and he would spend time with his kids and business. He said he’d obviously be disappointed if he lost “because I worked really hard the past 12 years.”
“People lose, I just hope I’m not one of them,” Chiavacci added.
A few people standing in line at the fire station said they were voting for Becker. David Young said he was picking Becker because “she has demonstrated many years of service to the community.”
“Plus, she’s a friend of ours,” Toni Young added.
Eileen Huddler said she’s voting for Becker because “I don’t want to vote for a businessman. We did that four years ago and we all see how that turned out.”
Charles Sterling said while standing in line that the election should not be partisan. He said he and his wife are voting for Becker and noted she was “extremely prepared” for the forum.
The fire station had two machines. Sam Schlitzer, the executive assistant to city administrator, said there were 15 people in line at 7 a.m. There were lulls throughout the day, but it would pick up again. At one point, she suspected 40 people were waiting in line at once.
The end to an election season in Westminster filled with more than its share of controversy, not to mention typographical errors, election day began with an issue found with the city’s ballots.
Carroll County Breaking News
Voters were instructed to vote by using the eraser on a pencil given them as they entered the polling place to press the box next to the candidate’s name on a large touch board ballot in the voting booth. In the council candidates’ section of the ballot, voters were instructed to vote for up to three candidates. However, only two seats were at stake.
The number 2 was taped over the incorrect original number so most voters had no idea there had been an issue. Westminster Common Council President Greg Pecoraro, whose seat was not up for election this year, said the fix was made almost immediately, no one was prevented for voting or even significantly held up and that the voting machine would not accept a ballot with three council votes anyway.
By mid-morning at the pool, voters could walk in and vote with little or no wait, with several candidates and their supporters waving at them. As lunchtime approached, a line of about 10 waited outside of the building to get in.
It was a sunny day and a friendly atmosphere that stood in contrast to the contentiousness seen in the mayoral race.
The public questioned partisan involvement as county and state Republican groups got behind Dillon’s campaign, Dillon alleged malicious intent from a city newsletter that printed a council candidate’s information where Dillon’s was supposed to go and current Mayor Joe Dominick, who is not running for reelection, accused a campaign letter sent from Dillon to Republicans as an attempt to “dog whistle homophobes.”
All of that led up to Dels. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, and Reid Novotny, R-9A, penning a letter to Westminster alleging election integrity issues on Monday and the interim city administrator responding with a letter outlining how each of the delegates’ assertions was without merit.
At the very least, it all served to increase interest in the election. The number of voters coming to both sites by mid-day made it a certainty the city would far surpass the turnout of recent municipal elections. A total of 686 votes were cast in 2019, when three councilmembers were chosen. In 2017, at the last election that included a mayoral race, which typically increases turnout, the total number of ballots cast was 1,008.