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Field in Aberdeen mayor's race swells to four, as 2011 runner-up McGrady files

A familiar foe has stepped up to challenge Mayor Mike Bennett in Aberdeen's city election Nov. 3.

Patrick McGrady, who narrowly lost to Bennett in 2011, joined the race this week. He is the third challenger who will be on the ballot along with Marla Posey-Moss, who lost a bid for state delegate last year, and longtime city councilwoman and former mayor Ruth Elliott. The three are trying to unseat Bennett, the city's mayor since 2007.

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The field is also expanding for the four city council seats that will be contested in the election, as newcomers Tim Lindecamp, Jason Kolligs, Sean DeBonis, Melvin Taylor and Daniel Forte have filed, along with incumbent council members Stephen Smith and Sandra Landbeck.

Carol P. Bruce entered the city council race late Thursday afternoon, City Clerk Monica Correll said on Friday morning.

At least one seat is open with Elliott's decision to run for mayor. In addition, eight-year Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young had not entered the race as of Thursday.

Forte, who filed Tuesday, must still have his financial disclosure form reviewed by the city's Ethics Commission, after which his candidate forms must be certified by the city's Board of Elections,  Correll said. Both panels are scheduled to meet Friday.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, to file. The city's voter registration deadline is Oct. 13. The absentee voter application deadline is Oct. 27.

The city's next mayor will be paid $15,000 annually, a raise from $10,000 the council approved last year to take effect following this year's election. Council members will be paid $10,000 annually, an increase from $7,500.

Foes before

In the last city election, McGrady lost by 25 votes to Bennett, 67, a retired Maryland State Police trooper and civilian employee and a 50-year member of the Aberdeen Fire Department.

McGrady, 29, works for his family's Cranberry Run Construction Co. Inc. He was at the hospital with his wife, who was giving birth to their second child on Wednesday, and said via email that three of the council candidates - Kolligs, DeBonis and Forte - are affiliated with him and they are running as a team called "Fix Aberdeen."

According to a posting on http://fixaberdeen.com, within a month of being sworn in, the team will vote to: "stop frivolous spending by Mayor and Council by eliminating city expense credit cards held by the Mayor and Council; repeal...the pay increases for the Mayor and Council passed by the current Mayor and Council; publish the city check register on the city website so the people can see where their tax dollars are going; and put all current and past recorded city meetings on YouTube for anyone to view for free."

"Our long-term vision is to fix the roads and water/sewer system instead of wasting taxpayer money on expensive boondoggles," the post continues. "We will work together to get taxes and spending under control – so the City can stop raising taxes and water bills each year. We pledge to create a thriving downtown by establishing fair and consistent rules for all businesses to follow."

Bennett, meanwhile, said he is supporting the two incumbents, Landbeck and Smith, and Lindecamp and Taylor for city council.

Of the McGrady challenge, the mayor said: "My only comment would be about any of his supposed team is I've never heard of any of them, but he has been putting signs up with no authority line, which is up to his usual tactics. We'll be taking photos and documenting them and I'm sure he's going to be told [by the Board of the Elections] to take them down. I guess rules don't apply."

Bennett and Landbeck were both critical of McGrady's tactics during the 2011 campaign. The mayor said he was mildly surprised McGrady decided to run again, but added he thinks having so many candidates for both mayor and council "should ensure a better than average turnout, which is a good thing." Just over 1,500 voted in the 2011 election.

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"I'm the incumbent and they've got to beat me," said Bennett, who is a past-president of the Maryland Municipal League and was active in lobbying Annapolis for a greater share of gasoline tax revenues for municipal governments. "I'll be out there working very hard knocking on doors, handing out pamphlets – doing what I always do."

Posey-Moss, 40, left her job as a Spanish teacher to focus on running for mayor and helping at a law firm. She said she will advocate for Aberdeen, just like she would have done for the city had she won either of her previous bids for House of Delegates in 2010 and 2014. In the former race, she and McGrady were both losing candidates in the general election for two seats that went to Glen Glass and Mary-Dulany James.

"Aberdeen needs a forward-thinking individual" who is interested in leading the city and serves as "the voice of residents," Posey-Moss said.

She said people want more opportunities and amenities for youth and senior citizens, such as a ramp at the city's post office. She would also push for more shelters at bus stops, try to address homelessness in the city, take advantage of grants and put legislation on the city website.

"I know the pulse of the city. I actually go out and talk to businesses. I talk to businesses who don't even know who the mayor is," Posey-Moss, a 20-year Aberdeen resident, said. "I would be a stronger advocate for the city."

Council race

Landbeck was elected to the City Council in 2011, while Smith, a retired Aberdeen deputy police chief, was appointed by Bennett in January to finish out the term of the late councilman Bruce Garner, who died in December.

Lindecamp is athletic director at Aberdeen High School and was Garner's son-in-law.

"I was thinking of moving out of the city limits, but I grew up here, so I thought, maybe instead of just moving out, I can make a difference," Lindecamp said, adding he would like to finish what his father-in-law, a councilman for more than five years, started.

Lindecamp, 54, teaches physical education and business at Aberdeen High and has worked at the school for 11 years. He has also worked as a production director at J.M. Huber Corporation in Havre de Grace and coached minor league basketball in Atlantic City, N.J.

He said he would like to see a revitalized downtown and more activities for the city's youth, noting most of children who take part in parks and recreation programs go to Churchville or Havre de Grace.

"We need to revitalize downtown. There is nothing downtown," he said. "I think the main thing is trying to find something for our kids to do, because if there is nothing to do, you have the tendency to get into trouble."

Taylor, a bishop with Word of Faith International Outreach in Aberdeen and a member of the city's Appeals Board, Kolligs, DeBonis and Forte could not be reached for comment.

According to McGrady, DeBonis is 31 and a licensed pawnbroker with J&K Associates in Aberdeen; Kolligs is 34 and works for MITRE Corporation, which according to its website is a not-for-profit that operates research and development centers for the federal government; and Forte is 60 and employed by DRS Technologies at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

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