The chair of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee has filed to run for mayor.
Steve Strawn, the head of the city’s Republican party, was among 20 political candidates who filed on Monday ahead of a 9 p.m. deadline to run for Annapolis elected positions that included City Council and party central committee seats.
Strawn will likely claim the Republican nomination in the Sept. 21 city primary and then face incumbent Democratic Mayor Gavin Buckley in the Nov. 2 general election.
“When I moved here it was only for a year. I’ve been here 15 years now and I love this city but I look around and say, the taxes are so high, where is it going? The streets look worse,” Strawn said. “There has to be a day of atonement.”
“Someone has to stand up and do this,” he added.
In the hours ahead of the filing deadline, Strawn and other prospective candidates steadily streamed into City Hall to drop off paperwork at the City Clerk’s office. And during a live-streamed Board of Supervisors of Elections meeting, their certificates of candidacy were then approved by the board.
In all, seven Democratic incumbent City Council members, plus Buckley will run for another term. The lone Republican, Fred Paone, has announced he will not be seeking a fifth term in Ward 2.
Three Democrats have filed to challenge incumbents in Ward 3, Ward 4 and Ward 8. Four Republicans in Ward 2, Ward 5, Ward 6 and Ward 8 are seeking their party’s nomination.
Another 16 people filed candidacies for the Annapolis Democratic and Republican central committees.
More candidates could join races over the next 10 days. Per City Code, the committees can still nominate candidates for uncontested races until Aug. 9, Elections Board Chair Eileen Leahy said.
Ward 1, Ward 3, Ward 4 and Ward 7 currently do not have Republican City Council candidates. There are also a handful of vacancies on both central committees.
Registered voters will receive a ballot for the Sept. 21 primaries in wards with a contested primary, that is with more than one candidate running from the same party. There are three contested Democratic City Council primaries, one Democratic central committee primary and none on the Republican side.
Here are the nine races and the candidates:
Buckley announced in December that he is seeking a second term, although he made no secret of his plans to ask voters for another four years.
“I dreamed about doing this a long time ago when a lot of people told me it wouldn’t be possible that a guy with a funny accent and a bad haircut could run for office in America,” he said during his 20-minute, announcement speech. “But people embraced our message.”
Buckley surged to victory in 2017 over incumbent Republican Mike Pantelides after running on a platform of environmental justice, fiscal responsibility and unity — his slogan was “One Annapolis.”
Pantelides had been considering another run at the office he held for one term but opted against jumping into the race.
Strawn has served as the Ward 1 representative on the Republican Central Committee since 2013.
He said his campaign would focus on lowering city taxes and reaching the city’s youth who he says have been left behind.
“I’m going to focus on the kids ... because that’s where our future is, that’s where everything starts,” Strawn said. “We’ve neglected that one resource.”
Alderwoman Elly Tierney, a Democrat in her first term, will seek another four years while campaigning on the issues that carried her to victory in 2017, including addressing flood mitigation, the health of the city budget, historic preservation and sustainability, she said.
“I was elected four years ago on the promise that I would always be accessible and responsive to the residents of downtown Annapolis, that I would balance the needs of our business owners and our residents, and that I would focus on the issues that will determine our future,” Tierney said in an announcement. “I’m proud to say that in partnership with our Mayor and my colleagues on the city council, we’ve made great strides on those issues – but the job is never done.”
No Republican or independent candidate came forward to challenge her.
Two candidates have announced campaigns for the seat after Paone announced he would not seek a fifth term after 14 years on the council.
Karma O’Neill, the founder of KO Events, announced in February she would run as a Democrat on a platform to increase access to city services, improving walkability and building community.
“I’ve always been a person that if I saw something that needed to be done. I jumped in and did it,” said O’Neill, who has lived in Ward 2′s Admiral Heights neighborhood since 2004 with her husband Sean, and two kids. “I feel that our ward could get a boost. I think that there’s a lot of things that could be improved upon.”
Scott T. Gibson, the chief strategy officer at Melwood, a health equity nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, has filed to run as a Republican.
Gibson’s campaign will focus on improving walkability, improving water access and increasing job opportunities in Annapolis by making the city a more attractive place for businesses to set up shop. But to do those things, the city must fix its finances, he said.
“If we want to move from dreaming an idea to reality, we have got to get our financial house in order. We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” the Admiral Heights resident said.
Democratic Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles is seeking a third term.
She promised to spend the next four years turning the Parole area into an attractive tourist destination in the same vein as the Annapolis Historic District or Eastport. The effort would include seeking state and federal grants to upgrade facades of old buildings and other efforts meant to increase the revenue potential of her ward.
“What I’ve noticed is Ward 3 is Annapolis in miniature,” Pindell Charles said. “Our history dates back to the Civil War. Why can’t we have Ward 3 as a destination for tourists?”
Keanuú Smith-Brown, the former District 30 Democratic Club president, announced in February he is running for Pindell Charles’ seat in the primary.
Among his policy priorities are public safety, police reform, immigration services, food and housing security, fiscal responsibility and extended transportation services.
No Republican or independent filed to run in the ward.
Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson has filed to run for a fifth term in the ward.
A Democrat, Finlayson kicked off her campaign in early July. Another term would allow her to shepherd two initiatives she successfully lobbied: a citywide survey to assess what services residents prioritize and the creation of a task force to study merging some city services with Anne Arundel County.
Finlayson said she would use her experience to continue pushing for additional amenities and making sure the council meets all the needs of city residents.
“Over my number of terms, I have learned how to be successful at meeting the needs and getting things done,” Finlayson said. “That’s the bottom line. I know the right people to call and how to put people together and bring resources to the city.”
Toni Strong Pratt, a former co-chair of the faith and community-based organization Anne Arundel Connecting Together, declared she will run as a Democrat.
Strong Pratt is a longtime advocate for additional mental health, addiction, transportation resources and other issues in public housing communities.
This is her second run for the council seat in Ward 4. She lost to Finlayson in the 2017 city primary. Finlayson won by 17 votes out of the 335 cast by voters.
“My daily work reflects my own story,” Strong Pratt said in a statement. “My voice can create change in Annapolis because I have overcome a lot of the issues that many residents in Ward 4 face.”
No Republican or independent filed to run in the ward.
Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier will seek to retain the council seat he was appointed to in September.
Schandelmeier worked in Annapolis and Anne Arundel politics for nearly a decade, before he was chosen by the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee to replace outgoing alderman Marc Rodriguez.
If elected, Schandelmeier said he hopes to use a full term to pass bills that help expand the housing inventory in the city like a recently introduced ordinance that would legalize and regulate accessory dwelling units in some zoning districts.
Monica Fenton Manthey has filed for the Republican nomination in the ward.
Democratic incumbent Alderman DaJuan Gay has announced he intends to seek a full term on the council after he was elected as a write-in candidate in a 2019 special election.
Another term would help him fulfill some of the promises he’s made in the two-plus years in the seat, including improving housing affordability in the city and helping stand up the Office of Community Services, a new city department tasked with connecting residents with social services, he said.
“I felt like the work wasn’t done,” Gay said. “I want to see some successes in the programs we have established.”
George Gallagher, who was defeated by Gay in the 2019 special election is taking a second run at the seat.
Gallagher will focus his campaign on reining in city spending and the size of the city’s bureaucracy and said he would push to consolidate city and county services to save costs and explore why some departments’ budgets have grown in recent years.
“The bottom line is I think that this City Council has mismanaged both the budget and the bureaucracy over the last less than four years,” Gallagher said. “It’s really not a partisan issue. It’s about reducing the size and cost of government.”
Last week, Gallagher and Republican county executive candidate Herb McMillan filed a lawsuit to stop Annapolis from mailing ballots to all registered voters in its upcoming primary and general elections. A hearing in the case is set for Aug. 2.
Democratic incumbent Alderman Rob Savidge announced in March that he will seek to retain the seat he won in 2017 by running on a platform of environmental protection.
In his first term, Savidge has helped pass several pieces of environmental legislation to that end, including a forest conservation bill and successfully enacting a city-wide polystyrene ban. He also championed the creation of the deputy city manager for resilience and sustainability to oversee the city’s resiliency initiatives.
Savidge said a second term would let him keep the momentum going of enacting environmental policies he sees as beneficial to Annapolis.
“It’s an important voice to maintain, the environmental voice, in a water town surrounded by five bodies of water,” Savidge said. “It’s been a joy working with the city and residents. There is still more to do.”
He is the only candidate in Ward 7.
Alderman Ross Arnett will seek a fifth term.
Arnett, a Democrat who has represented Ward 8 since 2007, said his campaign will focus on four areas: land use, the environment, city finances, and public safety. He is the first to file for Ward 8.
If re-elected, Arnett, the city’s Finance Committee chair, said he would focus on addressing the growing structural deficit in the city’s budget, a concern that has been put off in the upcoming fiscal year thanks to federal coronavirus relief bills that have helped shore up a revenue shortfall.
“We cannot continue to rely on one-time-only monies such as the CARES or ARPA (COVID) funds to create a balanced budget,” he said. “We must face the hard choices of cutting spending, which means eliminating services or jobs, or increasing revenue, which means increasing taxes.”
Kati George, an Annapolis Audit Committee member, has announced she will challenge Arnett in the Democratic primary.
Her campaign will focus on improving transportation, environmental protection, increasing minority and women-owned businesses and expanding affordable housing. George said her first goal on the council would be to unify the body around shared interests and policy priorities to create a citywide strategic plan that is connected to the city budget.
“Not everybody who lives in Ward 8 lives in a million-dollar-plus single-family home,” she said. “In my opinion, everybody needs to be heard. And that’s really my mission.”
Rock Toews, a local business owner, has filed to run in Ward 8 as a Republican.