Anne Arundel County Councilman Joshua J. Cohen was elected Tuesday as Annapolis' mayor, promising to bring efficiency and transparency to local government in Maryland's capital city.
Cohen, a former city alderman, defeated his nearest competitor, Republican Dave Cordle, an alderman and investigator in the state's attorney's office, by about 240 votes. Chris Fox, a local business owner, garnered about 1,050 votes, in a race where about 9,000 votes were cast.
"Today, Annapolis voters sent a clear message that they want to raise the bar at City Hall," Cohen told supporters inside an Annapolis hotel, promising to hire an experienced city administrator, rein in city spending and "set new standards for transparency."
"We are going to change the tone at City Hall to one where reasoned debate is welcomed and invited," said Cohen, who congratulated his opponents.
Cohen's victory could serve as a possible remedy to the political stalemate on slot machine gambling. His victory leaves vacant his seat on the council, which is considering two zoning bills that would allow slots in the county.
Some political observers have speculated that the council, which will appoint Cohen's replacement, might choose a pro-slots councilman to avoid having to support slots publicly but also ensuring that the zoning would be approved. Cohen does not support slots.
Cohen, 36, lost the Democratic primary in September, but ultimately became the nominee after Zina C. Pierre withdrew from the race amid revelations of personal financial problems and residency issues. The city's Democratic Central Committee selected Cohen, who placed second in the six-way primary race, to replace Pierre on the ballot.
Cohen reached out to Pierre's supporters, specifically African-Americans, hiring some of Pierre's former campaign staff members and promising diversity in his Cabinet.
Throughout the campaign, Cohen, who grew up in Annapolis, stressed his roots in the community and campaigned on a message of reform. Unlike many of his challengers, Cohen rejected calls for a city manager, which became popular as dissatisfaction with the current administration of Mayor Ellen O. Moyer grew. Moyer, a Democrat, cannot serve another term.
Cohen, who works at the nonprofit Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, was elected to the city council in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. He has represented Annapolis on the council since 2006.
A former parole and probation officer, he graduated with an economics degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is married, has two daughters and lives in West Annapolis.