Mayor Gavin Buckley is running for a second term in 2021.
The Annapolis mayor has made no secret that he plans to run for reelection, telling The Capital in January that some of the projects he has started in his first term, such as the Hillman Garage-City Dock redevelopment, would require four more years to see through.
But Thursday night during a virtual happy hour event, dubbed Conversation & Cocktails with Mayor Buckley, he formalized his intentions to run by unveiling a slickly-produced campaign video.
“This journey began four years ago with a dream,” Buckley says as the video opens with the besuited executive setting down his morning coffee and snatching up his work ID card and keys, heading to City Hall. As he exits his garage, he strolls past his SUV and hops onto his bicycle, a nod to efforts during his first term to make Annapolis a greener, more bikeable city.
In the ad, he touts Annapolis as a “forward-thinking, strong and inclusive” city that’s “more sustainable, more accessible and better connected.”
“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, unscripted speech. “But people embraced our message.”
Buckley, a Democrat, 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.”
“I stepped into office and I didn’t really know what the job entailed. I’d never been a politician,” Buckley said. “But I had ideas. I tried ideas. Some ideas worked, some ideas didn’t, but you bared with me the whole time.”
Annapolis residents Kia Baskerville and Harry Freeman hosted the event streamed on Facebook and Instagram. It featured a DJ to open the evening who played tunes by Talking Heads, William DeVaughn and Fatboy Slim and a poster with Buckley’s new campaign slogan, “Dream Work Deliver.”
As Baskerville and Freeman recounted Buckley’s background as an Australian immigrant and entrepreneur, they sampled specialty cocktails, such as the Red Light, a margarita named as a nod to West Street, the home of several restaurants Buckley owns.
Later they sampled another drink called The Bike Lane, an ode to Buckley’s doomed, and controversial, experiment to make the city more bikeable, a bike lane along Main Street that was pulled early after significant pressure from business owners and residents.
Buckley urged viewers to cast a vote for him to see through the projects he has initiated, including the construction of a new Public Works facility, a network of bike and running trails and the redevelopment of public housing properties among other initiatives.
“I swear to you one of my highest priorities is not only to just rebuild Newtowne but Harbour House, Eastport Terrace and Robinwood,” he said. “We can do amazing things with those properties; we can create the public housing model for this country and show people how it should be done, not doing what was done, which was putting people on the other side of the tracks.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage into its ninth month, and Buckley faces the final year of his term, he is tasked with a monumental recovery effort as he begins to campaign in earnest. He must find a way to shore up the city’s budget which shows a shortfall ranging in the millions for the next fiscal year. Furloughs and a piggyback sales tax have been proffered as ways to shore up the city’s finances.
Not everyone is convinced of Buckley’s ability to lead the city for four more years.
Buckley ran on a promise of more services and to not raise taxes, said Steven Strawn chairman of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee.
“We were given a massive tax increase and none of the services he promised,” Strawn said “He has broken all of his promises ... if Gavin were working in one of his own restaurants his manager would have fired him already.”
Buckley must also consider the needs of business owners, many of whom have had to shutter in the face of financial ruin and hundreds of residents — particularly in the Hispanic community and those in nursing homes — who have contracted the deadly virus.
Annapolis has “risen to the occasion” and been “at the forefront” in demanding testing and other resources during the pandemic, Buckley said.
“If we don’t fix coronavirus for everybody, we do not fix it,” he said. “It brings people together because it has to be a global solution to get through.”
Buckley submitted his candidacy certification paperwork this week, which is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors of Elections at its Dec. 17 meeting, said City Clerk Regina Watkins-Eldridge.
All eight City Council seats are also up for reelection next year. Ward 5 Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier is the first and only member to declare his candidacy so far.