The election for a new Annapolis mayor is more than a year away, but likely candidates are contemplating a run and raising money.
For the first time in more than a decade, no incumbent will be running for mayor, opening the race to a wide cast of contenders to succeed Ellen O. Moyer, who cannot seek re-election because of the two-term limit.
Among them are Aldermen David H. Cordle Sr. and Richard E. Israel, and Trudy McFall, an affordable-housing advocate. Others who say they are contemplating a run include Aldermen Samuel E. Shropshire and Ross H. Arnett, and Chuck Weikel, chairman of the Annapolis Charter 300 celebration.
"We won't really know until the filing deadline," said County Councilman Josh Cohen, a former alderman. "If history is any guide, you'll see some candidates announcing a year in advance. And you'll see other candidates who don't file until literally the night of the filing deadline. In the meantime, there's a lot of positioning and jockeying that goes on."
Though most of the likely mayoral candidates caution that most political interest is focused on the presidential election in November, and a formal announcement before then would likely get lost in the shuffle, brisk fundraising has begun in some quarters, and at least one possible Republican candidate was handing out fliers downtown last weekend.
Israel, a Democrat representing Ward 1, held a fundraiser May 4. According to campaign finance reports released after the July 2 deadline, he has raised $10,406 in the past year, with about half on hand. Alderwoman Sheila M. Finlayson, a Ward 4 Democrat, has raised about $6,000, and Weikel about $1,400. Finlayson did not return a call seeking comment on her plans to run.
Cordle, a Ward 5 Republican in his second term on the council, said, "It's my strong intention to make a run at this time.
"I was born and raised here in Annapolis, and I've seen a lot of change here, some of it good, some of it bad," Cordle said. "I think I know the town. I know the people. I think I'm more qualified than many."
Nicholas Berry, chairman of the city's Democratic central committee, said the rush to campaign is not unusual.
"It's going to be very competitive," Berry said. "It's happening all over the country. Campaigns are beginning early."
McFall is the early leader in fundraising, having raised $56,660 in the past year. She has about $39,000 on hand. A former chairwoman of the city housing authority's board of commissioners and current head of a nonprofit group that buys and preserves affordable housing, she has hired Dennis Conti, a fellow former housing authority commissioner, as her campaign manager.
One dust-up has already occurred. Weikel, in an e-mail to Conti that he copied to several city officials, called on McFall to return a $2,500 contribution from a developer who is building an apartment building at the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, a project that has been criticized for drawing resources from the city's economic core downtown. Weikel also pointed out that many of her McFall's contributors are developers and out-of-towners and questioned why she donated $2,536 to her own campaign. He declined to comment on the e-mail.
McFall said the developers who have contributed don't "have anything ongoing or any plans to do anything in Annapolis." She added that she thought it was important to donate money to her own campaign if she were to ask others for funds.
McFall's reason for running, she said, is "I feel like here in Annapolis, when we try to deal with our problems, we take too little regard for facts and information and what's worked elsewhere. We sort of throw out ideas and everyone starts flinging [them] around and nothing gets done."
Many of the aldermen have name recognition and records to run on. But some observers worry that a rush of aldermen running for mayor would gut the city council of experience. City council and mayoral elections coincide.
"One of my concerns is if everybody that's talking about running for mayor does, there's going to be a huge vacuum of experience from the aldermen," said Cohen, the county councilman. "The mayor is only one of nine votes on the city council."
Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat who has not filed his campaign finance reports because of a flood in May at his condo, said he raised about $13,000 in the past year. He hasn't decided whether he will use that money for a re-election campaign or to capture the city's top spot, he said.
"I probably get one or two requests every week encouraging me to run," Shropshire said. "But I will not make a decision until November."
Arnett, a Ward 8 Democrat, said he's also undecided.
"It seems like an awfully crowded field. It seems a little bit early to be thinking about those things," he said. "First of all, we have our hands full on the council with crime and sidewalks and budgets."
One alderman who didn't mince words about his intentions: Frederick M. Paone, a newly elected Ward 2 Republican. Is he going to run?
"No, no, no," Paone said.