The banner headline splashed across the front page of the Evening Capital on July 10, 1945, read: “McCREADY RE-ELECTED.” The block letters hovered over competing reports of U.S. military operations in Japan at the end of World War II and the announcement that William U. McCready, the Democratic incumbent, was reelected to a second four-year term as mayor of Annapolis.
McCready won 56% of the vote, the paper reported; not quite as wide a margin as the 60% majority he won in 1941, but still a decisive victory. It meant he would become the first mayor to serve two four-year terms after they were expanded from two years earlier in the decade.
He was also the first mayor of the modern era to win both elections with a majority, a feat that has become exceedingly rare in Annapolis mayoral elections. Five mayors have successfully won reelection since McCready did it, but never with a majority of the vote in both races. Historically, a third-party candidate has siphoned votes from those of the major parties leaving the winner with a plurality — less than 50% but the most out of all candidates.
After three-quarters of a century, that streak is likely to end Tuesday when the final votes of the 2021 election are counted.
Mayor Gavin Buckley, a Democrat, currently holds a 2,500-vote lead in his campaign to win a second term. He declared victory Wednesday after his Republican opponent, Steven Strawn, conceded following the first ballot canvass. Buckley led Strawn, 4,206 votes to 1,713, a 71% majority. There are still another 3,700 ballots, which were received after Oct. 28, to be counted at a final canvass on Tuesday.
If the current results hold, Buckley will win reelection with a majority and could secure one of the largest vote margins in the last seven decades, improving on the upset victory he pulled off in 2017 by defeating incumbent Mike Pantelides with 61% of the vote and sweeping all eight wards.
“It’s exciting for me because we weren’t afraid of big ideas,” Buckley said. “We went all in, and to win by this much on a second term, that really confirms that we’re doing the right thing, you know? That we’re headed in the right direction.”
Buckley’s victory was spurred in part by a deluge of ballots that were returned by mail or to ballot dropboxes scattered throughout the city, the result of a new election system implemented this year to allow residents a safer way to vote during the coronavirus pandemic and in an attempt to increase voter turnout.
The latter goal has come to fruition; voter turnout is expected to surpass 39.5%, which would exceed that of the last five general elections, dating back to 1997 when 40% of registered voters turned out. According to preliminary results, the mailed ballots have been majority Democrat — pushing Democratic City Council candidates ahead of their challengers in all wards.
Buckley had campaigned on a promise to finish many of the major capital projects he initiated in his first term: namely a rebuilt, state-of-the-art Hillman Garage; a redeveloped City Dock that includes resilience infrastructure and green space; a new public works facility and bicycle and pedestrian path that connects the Historic District to Waterworks Park. All are scheduled to be finished during or soon after his second term.
The July 1945 article about McCready told of similar big plans for a second term. He promised to expand the Naval Academy which would ring in the school’s 100th anniversary that October. He pledged to extend the borders of the “hemmed-in” city by annexing the metropolitan area, though that wouldn’t happen until 1950. A celebration of the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding would follow during the spring of McCready’s final year in office. He also promised to develop Truxtun Park as a recreation center for the city and to make “a recreation park on the property at the foot of Dock Street,” which McCready’s administration had purchased during his first term.
In 2024, the city will celebrate its 375th anniversary. The following year, Buckley’s last in office, the Naval Academy will turn 180. McCready’s recreation park became Susan Campbell Park, a key piece of Buckley’s City Dock redevelopment plan. The park will abut a raised grassy area that will double as an outdoor green space and a seawall to combat rising sea levels.
Buckley wants his legacy to be the completion of those major projects that will last long after his term and his lifetime.
“It’s great to have the (election) numbers but I want people to see the things that we will do that will make them say, ‘Oh, my God, that wouldn’t have happened if these guys weren’t in office,’” he said. “That this mayor really made a difference, a positive difference, to the city and it was better when he left it.”
“In 50 years, when someone’s walking in a park that’s on City Dock, or at a rowing facility on College Creek or at a heritage park on the Bay on Edgewood Road, that’s the stuff we went after and we made happen,” he added. “That’s why I love this job. I do truly love this job because you can think about things, put them into action and then watch them come out of the ground.”
Buckley, of course, still has his detractors.
After casting their ballots on Election Day, some voters expressed doubts about his ability to properly manage the city and its $150-plus million budget. Others still point to his failed attempt to install a temporary bike lane on Main Street in 2018 as a sign that he isn’t fit to appropriate their tax dollars for pet projects. Others worry he will raise taxes again in a second term, something he promised not to do during a mayoral debate in October.
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The last mayor to win a second term was Ellen O. Moyer who won reelection in 2005 by defeating two other candidates with 46% of the vote.
The list of other two-term mayors is short.
Al Hopkins won with a majority in 1989 and a plurality against two opponents in 1993. The lone Republican to win two mayoral elections in the last 75 years was John Apostol in 1973 and 1977, winning 60% of the vote before fending off two challengers with 42% of the vote four years later.
Apostol was preceded by Roger W. “Pip” Moyer — Ellen Moyer’s ex-husband — who was one of two mayors who first won by a plurality, 41% in 1965, and then secured reelection by a majority in 1969. Arthur Ellington won elections in 1953 and 1957, with 43% and 51% of the vote, respectively.
Winning a second term grants Buckley the opportunity to make good on his ambitious capital agenda, said Moyer, who became the first woman mayor in 2001 by winning with 55% of the vote.
If he sticks to his promises, he will likely face little opposition from a majority-Democratic council, some of whom may be eager to campaign on his successes to replace him in 2025. Some residents may chaff at the disruptions these capital projects can cause but that has always been part of any plan to remake a city as old as Annapolis, Moyer said.
“All of that is going to cause impatient people to moan and groan; you can’t do improvements without infringing on the lifestyle of residents,” she said. “But no one (on the City Council) is going to oppose that. The timing is right and the money is right.”