Mayor Gavin Buckley was elected to a second term as mayor of Annapolis and all eight Democratic City Council candidates swept their respective races, the first time in at least 70 years that one party will control the mayor’s office and the legislature.
Buckley defeated Steven Strawn, the former chair of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee, with a 73% majority. Buckley finished with 7,124 votes to Strawn’s 2,570 following Tuesday’s second and final general election ballot canvass.
In City Council races, seven Democratic incumbents defeated their Republican opponents. The council will welcome Ward 2 Democrat Karma O’Neill who defeated Republican Scott Gibson by 219 votes to claim the seat vacated by retiring Alderman Fred Paone.
Buckley and the council members will be sworn in at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6. The new City Council term begins Dec. 13.
“I’m really excited and really grateful and thankful for everybody that supported us and believed in us,” Buckley said. “They took a chance on me four years ago and it’s great to do better numbers-wise than we did back then.”
Strawn conceded to Buckley last week. However, the Annapolis elections board never received his concession in writing, which meant the canvass certified Buckley’s victory as the first mayor since 1945 to win two elections with 50% or more of the total votes cast.
Voter turnout was 40%, the highest turnout in city elections since 1997. In all, 9,927 of the city’s roughly 25,000 eligible registered voters cast ballots, results showed.
Turnout was bolstered in large part by a new vote-by-mail system implemented by the city elections board this year. Nearly 7,900 people cast votes by mail or dropped off their ballot at a drop box compared to 2,000 people who voted in person on Election Day.
Tuesday morning began with election workers opening and canvassing about 4,000 ballot envelopes from the Nov. 2 general election. The ballots were a combination of 121 provisional ballots cast on Election Day, 2,875 returned to drop boxes and 980 returned by mail after Oct. 28.
A group of 20 election workers was broken up into pairs to complete the count, which took about five hours to complete.
In Ward 2, O’Neill, a 25-year resident of Annapolis who runs an events business, defeated Gibson, 972 votes to 753. She will become the lone new member of the council and the first Democrat to represent the West Annapolis ward since Sheila Tolliver served two terms between 1997 and 2005.
“I am so excited we won. We were a force of nature,” O’Neill said of her campaign team. “It was my team that got out and talked with people and heard from people and we are taking that forward with us. I look forward to the next four years.”
Gibson attended the five-hour canvass in its entirety Tuesday. The nonprofit executive said he was proud of his performance and would continue to advocate for issues as a city resident. He totaled the second-most votes among Republican council candidates.
“I was a loudmouth and really involved before this,” he said, “and I don’t see that changing.”
In Ward 5, Democrat Brooks Schandelmeier defeated Republican opponent Monica Manthey, 760 votes to 359.
“I’m really excited that I won with a pro-housing message,” said Schandelmeier, who was appointed to the seat in 2020 after former alderman Marc Rodriguez resigned. “I’m looking forward to doing some great things for housing affordability, improving our infrastructure, closing the digital divide. This is really great news.”
Manthey couldn’t be reached for comment.
Ward 6 Democrat DaJuan Gay bested his Republican opponent George Gallagher, 412 votes to 151.
Gay, who initially won the seat in a special election in 2019, said he was excited to start getting back to work on policy initiatives in the next four years, particularly, those “that help our families, our middle and lower-class families, particularly housing initiatives,” he said.
Gallagher couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Democratic incumbent in Ward 8, Ross Arnett, won a fifth term by defeating his Republican opponent Rock Toews, 1,092 votes to 812.
“It was a hard campaign. Rock was a very worthy opponent,” Arnett said. “He and I share a lot of common views but obviously 812 people thought he was a pretty good candidate so I can’t ignore that.”
Toews, a small business owner who ran and lost the Ward 8 seat against Arnett in 2009, said he was proud of his campaign and would be eager to work with Arnett on issues that affect Ward 8.
“We were gentlemanly. We didn’t get into attacks. I am proud of that. It was a good race,” Toews said. “I would be happy to work with him going forward.”
In Ward 4, Sheila Finlayson, a Democrat, tallied 476 votes to 211 votes cast for write-in candidates.
After spending the day observing the canvass proceedings, Finlayson said it was an honor to win a fifth term on the council.
“The people have spoken and now we get ready to do some work,” she said.
Finlayson’s opponent, Toni Strong Pratt, a Democrat who launched a write-in campaign following a five-vote defeat in the primary, received 186 votes, election officials said.
Strong Pratt could not be reached for comment.
Three unopposed Democrats all won another term.
In Ward 1, Elly Tierney secured a second term after she received 1,388 votes to 142 write-ins. Tierney tallied the most votes among all council candidates.
Rhonda Pindell-Charles, a two-term Ward 3 alderwoman, received 731 votes to 52 write-ins.
In Ward 7, Rob Savidge won a second term, receiving 786 votes to 36 write-ins.
Since the city expanded to eight wards in the 1950s, a single party has never held the mayor’s office and all eight council seats at the same time.
Democrats have held at least a majority following all but two elections since 1953. Republicans and independents held a 5-4 majority after the 1977 and 1989 elections. Democrats’ advantage has slowly slid toward a supermajority — at least seven seats — in four of the last five elections dating back to 2001.
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Paone, who held the Ward 2 seat since 2007, was the lone Republican during the last four years and between 2009 and 2013. He gained one fellow party member in former Mayor Mike Pantelides from 2013 to 2017.
About a dozen members of the public observed Tuesday’s canvass. Several were associated with Republican groups, including two members of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee.
Observers who spoke to The Capital said they didn’t witness anything untoward but said it was important to attend the public canvass to learn more about the process and make sure it was being conducted properly.
Heather Berlett, president of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County, said she was impressed with the workers she observed, noting how organized and by-the-book they were. One election worker could be heard telling Berlett, “We are just trying to make sure we do it right.”
Another observer, Frank DiTraglia, said it was his first time watching a canvass and to see workers count ballots in-person made him feel good and “less conspiratorial,” he said.
Mary Beth Chipkevich, the Ward 2 representative on the Annapolis Republican Central Committee, said the party must examine the results of the general election — specifically the impact of mail-in voting — to better understand how it can regain its footing in the city.
“But more importantly, I think we need to talk to the people, walk around and thank the people in every ward for voting for us, and find out why did we not scratch their itch?” Chipkevich said. “What can we do different; what can we offer that’s different than the status quo.”