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Bennett beats McGrady by slim margin

Re-elected Aberdeen Mayor Mike Benett, left, is joined by fellow election winners Sandy Landbeck, Ruth Elliott, Ruth Ann Young and Bruce Garner after Tuesday's election results were announced.
Re-elected Aberdeen Mayor Mike Benett, left, is joined by fellow election winners Sandy Landbeck, Ruth Elliott, Ruth Ann Young and Bruce Garner after Tuesday's election results were announced. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing)

Incumbent Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett was re-elected to a third term by a tiny margin, just 26 votes, after the unofficial count was over Tuesday night.

Bennett had 764 votes over challenger Patrick McGrady's 738. That count included 18 absentee ballots but does not include the potential of 16 more provisional ballots, which will be canvassed Thursday at 10 a.m.

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About 1,500 voters, or 18.7 percent of Aberdeen's 8,012 registered voters, took part in the election, according to the unofficial count given by elections coordinator Gina Bantum.

By comparison, turnout for the 2009 election was 21 percent.

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The four councilmembers, none of whom had opposition, sailed to easy victories. Ruth Elliott got 1,059 votes, Sandra Landbeck got 1,031, Bruce Garner had 992, and Ruth Ann Young had 948.

"A win's a win," Bennett said after hearing of the tight results, before heading off for a victory party at the Holiday Inn.

He added the campaign with McGrady, in which the newcomer to city politics accused him of violating city laws by supporting Ripken Baseball in Augusta, Ga., was the "nastiest" he had been in.

"I'm just kind of drained right now," he said after the vote.

McGrady was not present for the results and did not respond immediately to a phone call requesting comment.

Bennett received 982 votes in 2009, when he defeated Mike Hiob and Barbara Osborn Kreamer.

The re-elected councilmembers said they were glad to be together again.

"I'm glad that everyone got back," Ruth Elliott said. "I'm glad that Mike won."

Bruce Garner said he looked forward to getting back to work.

"There's a lot of stuff to be done," he said. "We have got stuff we have been working on and now we can go forward and do it."

City voters had been steadily flowing into the Aberdeen Senior Center on Franklin Street throughout the day Tuesday

At 3 p.m., about 835 votes had been counted, elections supervisor Bantum said.

As of city elections, the edge of Festival Park across from the Aberdeen Senior Center where voting takes place is again lined with tents filled with candidates and their supporters.

Bennett's signs were tagged with the slogan, "It's All About Trust," while McGrady had a motto of "More Jobs, Lower Taxes."

Susan and Larry Coulson said they voted for Bennett because they have been happy with Aberdeen's administration.

"I am satisfied with the way things are run in town," Larry Coulson said. "We didn't think there was a need to change."

Susan Coulson said she was glad the council stood up to Presbyterian Home of Maryland when the organization wanted tax forgiveness to build The Village at Carsins Run retirement community. The developer pulled out when the town wouldn't agree to a blanket tax break for the project.

"I think they have done a good job," Susan Coulson said of the council. "I was really proud of the way the city and council didn't back away from that issue with the senior housing. I thought that was political blackmail; I think it took a lot of gumption [for the council]."

Despite his interest in keeping city administration the same, not to mention the relative lack of candidate options, Larry Coulson said he nevertheless thought it was important to vote.

"We thought it was important not to take it for granted," he said. "Every vote counts, even in a local election."

Several others casting their ballots, however, said they were voting for McGrady because they are dissatisfied with how the city has been run by Bennett.

Roger Maranan said he wants to see a difference.

He said he just received his water and sewer bill with an additional $17 charge for the city's enhanced nutrient removal project, and he wants a change in water bills and property taxes.

"I am tired of seeing things going downhill with the present mayor," Maranan said. "For a while we have been living in Aberdeen, and we never had that…Now they are telling us they are going to put some nutrients in the water. You can tell that they are trying to make money here in Aberdeen."

Carol Barnhart was out campaigning for McGrady. She and said she also campaigned for Hiob, who lost to Bennett in 2009.

Barnhart said she is also unhappy with the city's public works department, explaining that her house began experiencing serious flooding six years after she and her husband moved in.

She said the city added their house, in the 400 block of West Bel Air Avenue, to the flood plain and recently performed smoke testing on the sewer system, but never informed them about the results or a potential remedy for the flooding.

"Nobody cares. Every mayor's been at my house," she said. "Don't you think we should be at the table, too? Something's got to happen."

Sandra Matthews said she would also be voting for McGrady because she wants to see progress.

"I think he has a good plan to lead our town forward," Matthews said. "He has some specific ideas. We need to take opportunity with our BRAC situation."

Matthews added she wishes there were more choices on her ballot.

"I am disappointed there weren't more candidates to choose from," she said.

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