In Ward 6, Annapolis voters will see two familiar names when they cast their general election ballots on or before Nov 2.
Democratic candidate DaJuan Gay is seeking a full term after winning a write-in campaign in a 2019 special election. George Gallagher, who won the Republican nomination in 2019 and lost to Gay, is seeking the seat once again.
The pair are running in one of five contested City Council and mayoral races. Whoever wins will be seated in early December to represent the ward, which cuts from Eastport, across Forest Drive and includes the neighborhoods of Eastport Terrace and Harbour House, as well as the Robinwood public housing complexes.
The Ward 6 precinct at the Eastport Community Center at 1014 President St. will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters can return their completed ballot to any of the eight drop boxes throughout the city between now and when polls close or return the ballot by mail so long as it’s postmarked by Nov. 2.
The Capital reached out to both candidates to discuss why they’re running and what they would do if elected.
In 2017, as a 19-year-old college student, DaJuan Gay ran and lost in the Ward 6 Democratic primary to Shaneka Henson.
Two years later, when Henson was named to the Maryland House of Delegates, Gay again sought the seat. But after a paperwork snafu kept him out of the Democratic primary, DaJuan Gay used a strong write-in campaign to defeat George Gallagher in the general election.
For the last two years, he has been learning the ropes as the youngest alderman in city history.
After campaigning on community policing, environmental justice and bike and pedestrian accessibility in 2019, Gay, now 24, has made increasing access to housing and improving housing affordability in the city his top priority.
In 2019, he co-sponsored legislation to legalize accessory dwelling units, a kind of housing that comes in a range of forms like converted basements and garages or standalone structures on single-family lots. The bill was eventually withdrawn.
A new version was introduced earlier this year.
After months of hearings, committee meetings and town halls, the bill passed this month. Gay sees the newly legalized units as a step toward his goal of improving housing affordability.
“My priority heading into this is, we have to fix the housing crisis. That became my issue because I realized it’s at the core of so many other issues,” Gay said. “You just have to have a safe house, you know, a decent standard of living. ADUs are a small victory in the grand scheme of housing affordability.”
Gay won another victory during the Maryland General Assembly session earlier this year when he pushed for an amendment to a state bill that earmarked 3% of the hotel taxes collected by the city to go into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. That money, which Gay estimated is about $75,000, can be used to help people pay for security deposits, rental assistance and other costs, he said.
Meanwhile, Gay pushed for the creation of the Housing Affordability Task Force, a group of local housing experts that spent months exploring the current landscape of Annapolis’ housing stock. They eventually made a list of recommendations for increasing access to housing, some of which Gay will use to create new legislation if he is reelected.
Specifically, Gay is exploring planned zoning for affordable housing, which would allow an increase in housing density in certain parts of the city and loosen bulk height restrictions, among other changes. He has also said he wants to use a property on Spa Road that once was part of a land swap for a new public works building for building affordable housing.
“If elected I plan to come out swinging. It may take a couple of months to go through the process but I think we can make it work because we all understand the importance of housing,” he said.
At times during his tenure, Gay has clashed with other council members, expressing frustration at both the speed at which the legislative process moves and at his colleagues for a perceived lack of interest in enacting progressive policies.
In an unconventional move, Gay endorsed three Democratic candidates who were challenging incumbents in the primary. Among them was his good friend Keanuú Smith-Brown in Ward 3, Toni Strong Pratt in Ward 4 and Kati George in Ward 8. All three were defeated on Election Day.
Gay said he plans to work with his colleagues despite some lingering frustrations.
“We have the same goals,” he said. “My sense of urgency is a little more because of the situation of some of my constituents. We have to meet their needs.”
Some of Gay’s constituents have taken legal action to address living conditions in their public housing units. One lawsuit from May 2019 resulted in two separate $900,000 settlements paid by the city and the independent housing authority to dozens of public housing residents. Two more lawsuits based on similar allegations of discrimination, and unsafe living conditions are ongoing.
In addition to housing, addressing crime is also at the top of Gay’s priorities for another term.
Several high-profile crimes have taken place in Gay’s ward during his tenure, including several shootings, a homicide on the eve of his election in 2019 and earlier this year when 30 shots fired in Harbour House struck homes and vehicles but didn’t injure anyone.
Gay said he wants to funnel more funding into two resource centers the city created this year in Robinwood and Harbour House. The converted public housing units currently employ two full-time city staffers and a range of rotating social programs to connect residents with resources like financial literacy, record expungement and job training. More full-time workers are needed to staff the spaces, Gay said.
Gay also hopes to also explore providing housing tax credits to Annapolis police officers to help bolster recruitment, something he could include in the planned zoning bill, he said.
When he is not working on council matters, Gay works full time with the nonprofit group Progressive Maryland managing two task forces on reducing recidivism and other criminal justice reforms.
This term he supported a raise for City Council members that will kick in over the next four years.
“I think it was important not for me — I don’t think I’m sticking in politics long term — but to create a foundation for people to get involved. We won’t have people getting involved if they don’t feel that it’s worth it.”
George Gallagher is a Republican who has lived in Ward 6 since 2001.
In 2019, at the prompting of neighbors, he ran for the Ward 6 seat vacated by Shaneka Henson, who left for the Maryland House of Delegates. He won the Republican nomination in the primary but was defeated by a strong write-in campaign from Gay, then a college student.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Gallagher did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
In June, when he filed his candidacy, Gallagher told The Capital his campaign would focus on reining in city spending and the size of the city’s bureaucracy.
“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 in an interview at the time. “It’s really not a partisan issue. It’s about reducing the size and cost of government.”
Gallagher said he would push to consolidate city and county services to save costs and explore why some departments’ budgets have grown in recent years.
In July, Gallagher, and Herb McMillan, a Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive, filed a lawsuit against the Annapolis and Anne Arundel election boards to block the implementation of a vote-by-mail option in the 2021 Annapolis elections.
After the lawsuit was dismissed by a Circuit Court judge and a subsequent appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the legal challenge died and the new election system was allowed to proceed.
Gallagher previously served as the president of the Irvine Conservancy and focused on preserving coastal open space. He also has experience as a biotechnology consultant.