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In Annapolis Elections, Stakes Are High, Players Few

Do we care who runs this town?

What do we want our capital city to do for us?
    Smooth our commuter visit by land and sea?
    Give us places to go and things to do, by day and night?
    Provide a walkable historic core?
    Give us model environmental integrity in lighting, noise control, stormwater and waste management?
    Maybe just stay green?
    Without doubt, we want a good place to live and do business where we’re proud to bring visiting family and friends.
    We’ve all got a stake in Annapolis, yet many of us are part of the silent majority with no say in who makes the many decisions that affect our capital life.
    If you’re an Annapolitan, you may well be in that silent majority by choice.
    More than half of Annapolitians — 23,675 of 38,394 — are registered to vote.
    How many will vote next Tuesday, September 17, when Annapolis holds its off-cycle primary?
    Unless this primary election is a lot more exciting than the last one, maybe one in four registered voters.
    In the last citywide primary, in 2009, 23.8 percent of registered voters turned out.
    By bipartisan standards, Democratic turnout was huge: 31.3 percent. Only 466 Republican voters came to the polls that September day, a 7.4 percent turnout.
    Zina Pierre — who later withdrew — won the Democratic nomination with only 1,461 votes. Then-city councilman David Cordel won the Republican nomination with only 375 votes.
    Candidates locked down city council nominations with vote totals ranging from 68 votes (Republican ­Frederick Paone, Ward 2) to 480 votes (Richard Israel, Ward 1).
    High school elections get this many votes.
    In November, 3,791 votes gave the mayor’s job to Democrat Josh Cohen, who replaced Pierre.
    In our capital city elections, stakes are high but players few.
    Candidates are often as scarce as voters.
    On this September’s ballot, 13 candidates are running for nine offices.
    The mayoral competition is hot: three Republicans and two Democrats.
    “Who would have ever thought five people would be running,” said Republican candidate Bob O’Shea in appreciative wonder — not chagrin.
    Yet in the eight wards — the neighborhoods capital citizens call home — only two races are contested. Two Democrats are going man-to-man in both Wards 1 and 2. Ward 2, West Annapolis and Admiral Heights, with Republican Fred Paone in office, is the most competitive race.
    There’s no Republican-on-Republican competition in any ward race.
    And no competition at all in four wards.
    “All they have to do to win is vote for themselves,” said David Prosten, chair of the Sierra Club, which sponsored a pre-primary forum.
    On the hopeful side, Annapolitan registration is bigger this year, up almost 4,300 from ’09 with city population holding about steady. So maybe digits will rise in vote totals.