Open season

The political ascendancy of Laura Mitchell continues, apparently.

Laura finished in third, 122 votes behind first-place winner Terry Cohen, in the city’s March 1 primary but made up all that and more as she zipped by both Cohen and Tim Spies to win a four-year term on City Council. While it’s possible that absentees could push Terry Cohen into the top slot (13 votes separate Mitchell and second-place Cohen) the fact is that a woman who hadn’t even raised enough money to need a financial report in the primary beat out a field that was by and large comprised of previous candidates and well-financed challengers.

Perhaps the main ingredient in her success was her independence. It was no secret that Terry Cohen and Tim Spies were running as a Camden tag team, with several joint appearances and fundraisers. On the other hand, Muir Boda and Orville Dryden had a number of common financial backers and while they weren’t overtly running as a slate those allied with Cohen and Spies created the perception that Boda and Dryden were. Mitchell seemed as though she was the compromise candidate between the two camps, although as I revealed in my look at the last financial reports Laura had some prominent Democratic elected officials bankrolling her.

Still, Laura overcame some rumors dogging her and a campaign that was a little bit short on specifics to win a seat on City Council as the lone political newcomer. Tim Spies was successful in his second try at the brass ring and Terry Cohen won another four-year term.

So the Council appears set for two years, and the Camden neighborhood will be calling the tune. Look for a renewed push to get Mayor Ireton’s neighborhood housing initiative passed and an all-out war on the $96 million business of rentals to begin, along with a deterioration in town-gown relations with Salisbury University. The question now becomes this: is this the end of the 3-2 Council? I think it is, but that doesn’t bode well for the City of Salisbury.

Tales from the voting booth

A quick update…

First, I can almost guarantee that I won’t have the results from Salisbury’s election first tonight because I have a job to do. It pays better than this site, although if the advertisers from another somewhat disgraced site wished to invest in mine this enterprise may make me more coin than my job.

Anyway, I voted today around 3:00. There were two items I found worth mentioning.

First, I asked about turnout at my polling place (Wicomico Presbyterian) and I was the 375th voter. If this is relatively accurate then I think turnout isn’t going to be much greater than 15 to 17 percent, and that doesn’t bode (no pun intended) well for the challengers. It’s the faithful voters who showed up in the primary who are voting in this election, too – so the results will likely be similar. Had there been 500 voters at the precinct I believe the challengers had more of a chance. Let’s hope I’m wrong on that one for Muir Boda’s sake.

If it were up to people who read monoblogue and Two Sentz, though, Muir would be a shoo-in. Here’s the results of our joint poll:

  1. Muir Boda, 34 votes (38.2%)
  2. Laura Mitchell, 22 votes (24.7%)
  3. Terry Cohen, 14 votes (15.7%)
  4. Orville Dryden, 13 votes (14.6%)
  5. Tim Spies, 5 votes (5.6%)
  6. Bruce Ford, 1 vote (1.1%)

Of course, I think the influence of having an ad for Muir Boda on my site and Laura Mitchell on Two Sentz just might influence the poll. If nothing else, I suppose that proves blog advertising works (see first paragraph above.)

Finally, I had a nice complement from the young lady who’s running Laura Mitchell’s campaign, or at least I presume she does. She thanked me for my fair coverage of the race, and not jumping into the rumor mill about Laura’s living arrangement.

Now maybe there was something to the rumor, but since the protagonist seemed to backtrack from it I doubt it. And hers wasn’t all that important of an issue, just like who Jim Ireton sleeps with was but a sidebar to the real issues surrounding the mayoral race two years ago. It hasn’t affected his job performance, although I was pretty skeptical about that anyway.

So after tonight’s count we will probably have an idea of who will be representing District 2 for the next 4 1/2 years, since the next time these seats will be contested will be the fall of 2015. Unless it’s close enough to require an absentee count and we end up in a tie, I think the top three in the primary will prove to remain in those positions.

If so, beware – it’s open season on landlords and other small businessmen in Salisbury.

A final pitch

Today Muir Boda, candidate for Salisbury City Council, released his last argument for convincing voters to touch the screen for him Tuesday. It’s most important to Muir as he finished fourth in the primary and needs to leapfrog one other contender to grab one of the three available District 2 seats.

In December when I filed to run for Salisbury City Council I began this campaign with the following message and I feel it is only appropriate to make this my last message before Election Day.

Our campaign has been about ideas, solutions and action. 

For too long our city has been embroiled in the politics of personal destruction and the clash of personalities.  This has caused much embarrassment for the City of Salisbury and the wonderful people, who live, work and play here.

Meanwhile, businesses are struggling, crime has steadily risen, property rights are under attack and in the end our quality of life deteriorates.  We must put aside our differences and come together to address the many issues we face.

I believe in having everyone at the table.  All are stakeholders in this city whether you are a homeowner or business owner, landlord or renter, employer or employee, you have a right to be heard.  We all have a stake in this community and passing it on to the next generation better than we received it is not just the right thing to do, it is our duty.

Join me as we bring forth a positive message of healing, reaching out to our neighborhoods that are disenfranchised and opening up our doors for business.  We have so much work to do and it is going to take all of us putting aside our differences to do what is best for Salisbury.

It seems like a benign enough sort of message, but one problem Muir has faced is the public perception he’s in the pocket of landlords who play a significant role in city politics. Certainly Boda has a number of backers from the realty industry but as I noted last week he’s beginning to diversify his support base while other contenders remain neatly joined at the hip.

I noticed the dig at “neighborhoods that are disenfranchised,” which is an obvious reference to the fact the Camden neighborhood could have three Council members while large swaths of Salisbury are unrepresented, including the Doverdale area where Boda lives. Certainly many problems occur citywide, but it seems the biggest push for cracking down on perceived rental abuses and those who blame Salisbury University students for the city’s decline come from those live in Camden. Never mind that we’re talking about a $96 million industry (according to one of Boda’s opponents who lives in Camden) and an economic force of 8,000 students, most of whom live off-campus, who have plenty of other college choices both in and out of Maryland.

Meanwhile, many in the rest of the city make their living from the rental industry and college students, and we want to welcome both with open arms. After all, there’s a number of entrepreneurs who own just one or two houses in order to create a little extra income for themselves – only a small portion can be considered ‘slumlords.’

We need people on City Council who aren’t antagonistic to these important groups, and Muir Boda fits that bill. Camden would be more than adequately represented with Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen on City Council, so let’s give the rest of the city a voice as well. Remember, there is life in Salisbury east of Division Street, even though none who are on City Council currently hail from there. We can help correct that oversight on Tuesday by electing Muir Boda.

And today’s Daily Times agrees with my original thoughts on the matter – for the most part, anyway – including their own endorsement of Muir Boda.

Updated City Council financials

With less than a week to go until the General Election on April 5th, the candidates are trying to raise money for the final push. My analysis of the latest report will be broken into two parts: total money raised, and money raised since the initial reports were completed on February 23rd.

Total contributions to date:

  1. Muir Boda – $3,250
  2. Tim Spies – $3,010
  3. Terry Cohen – $2,836
  4. Orville Dryden – $2,750
  5. Laura Mitchell – $1,970
  6. Bruce Ford – $310

Since the first report – this shows contribution trends:

  1. Laura Mitchell – $1,820 from 31 contributors
  2. Muir Boda – $1,615 from 16 contributors
  3. Terry Cohen – $681 from 15 contributors
  4. Tim Spies – $650 from 13 contributors
  5. Orville Dryden – $650 from 6 contributors
  6. Bruce Ford – no contributions, aside from a loan to himself

Once again we have two groups of contributors giving to two separate candidates. Terry Cohen and Tim Spies are now the largest beneficiaries of this trend since eight of Spies’ 13 donors also gave to Cohen. Some key donors among them were Dana Kennan ($100 apiece), Scot Disharoon ($100 to Cohen), P.E. Bolte ($100 to Cohen), S.J. Disharoon ($100 to Spies), and Todd Smith ($100 to Spies). All are listed as a Salisbury address.

On the other hand, Muir Boda has broken away from Orville Dryden to some extent. While they were nearly joined at the hip on the first report, only five of Boda’s 16 contributors also gave to Dryden. Largest among them was the Maryland Realtors PAC, which gave the maximum $250 to both. Also maximizing their contributions to Boda were Deborah Anderson of Salisbury (Boda’s treasurer), Jonathan Boda of Santa Monica, California, and John Cannon of Salisbury. Jeffrey Benner of Salisbury also gave Boda $100.

Dryden received a major contribution from F.M. Young of Salisbury, who donated $150.

Perhaps the most “independent” candidate was Laura Mitchell, whose contribution list didn’t feature a single person who gave to another candidate. However, there were some well-known Democratic elected officials on the list – Trudy Andersen and Harry Basehart from the Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee, Delegate Rudy Cane, and Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton. Andersen and Basehart gave $115 and $140, respectively, so I would consider them “major” contributors. Others who fall into that category include Lynda Donaldson of Selbyville, Delaware ($125), Michael Weisner of Salisbury ($140), Sharon Barto of Parsonsburg ($100), R. Neill Carey of Salisbury ($100), and Patrick Bostian of Salisbury ($250).

This report also revealed that Mitchell had made $150 from 4 contributors prior to the last report, so she was correct in stating she didn’t meet the $600 threshold at that time.

Apparently Bruce Ford is self-financing his campaign at the moment, loaning his coffers the $494 in expenses he paid in the last reporting period. He reported no other contributions.

But Laura Mitchell seems to be the political flavor of the month – even opponent Muir Boda gave Mitchell a total of $45. Whether that will haunt him in the end remains to be seen, but the biggest money seems to be moving to the race between Mitchell and Boda for that number three slot – Cohen and Spies could be considered shoo-ins, while Dryden and Ford may be too far in arrears to have a good chance at leapfrogging two or three spots, respectively. The contributions seem to reflect that reality.

And what of the two who didn’t make it? Michael Taylor didn’t file a report, as presumably he didn’t raise or spend any money after the primary. But Joel Dixon spent the remaining $715.81 after paying his bills on a good cause, as he donated the remainder of his campaign account to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

As was the case before the primary, I should also send kudos to Brenda Colegrove, the Salisbury City Clerk, for making these reports available in a timely manner. It’s nice to get this information before the election to assist in this important decision.

And a note to Tim Spies: this time when you cite my information, print the whole thing.

Boda wins Council poll again

Perhaps this is more reflective of the preferences of my readership than of the actual future election, but Muir Boda was the choice of those who responded to my Salisbury City Council poll. In the real vote earlier this month, Boda finished fourth.

The conservative lean of my readership is also reflected in who the bottom three finishers were, as they all tied.

There were just 62 votes cast, with the lower number expected when I changed the poll rules a little bit to discourage frequent repeat voting. I may relent on this slightly for the next version, but the results were pretty much what I figured they would be.

Here’s the order of finish:

  1. Muir Boda – 18 votes (29.03%)
  2. Orville Dryden – 15 votes (24.19%)
  3. Terry Cohen – 8 votes (12.9%)
  4. Bruce Ford, Laura Mitchell, and Tim Spies – 7 votes apiece (11.29%)

Truthfully, when I advertise Boda and have been critical of Tim Spies in this space, I got the results I figured I would. But I’m going to do one more poll before the election, tweaking things a little bit more and perhaps utilizing Two Sentz’s blog to help weigh results more to the center.

New City Council poll

There’s a new sidebar poll on the City Council race, with an important difference.

I have changed the parameters to discourage frequent repeat voting. Although someone could skew the results to an extent, it’s going to be a little more difficult to do.

As for the poll this replaces, I found it interesting that support for creating five single-person districts in the city is reasonably strong. Over 50 percent (51.42% to be exact) favored that option, although a small portion of that group advocated adding two at-large Council members to base it more closely on Wicomico County. 40 percent favored the current system, while the other 8.57% would like all five elected at-large.

It’s highly doubtful this will happen anytime soon, though, as primary results indeed suggest three City Council members (Terry Cohen, Tim Spies, and Debbie Campbell) will represent the Camden neighborhood. Obviously they’ll have nothing to do with making that neighborhood just one of five districts; meanwhile areas like Johnson’s Lake, Doverdale, and the southeast quadrant of the city where I live may have no local representatives if results hold true.

Salisbury Council field set

After all the absentees and provisional ballots have been counted, the six contestants who presumably advanced by last Tuesday’s initial results indeed held on. The battle for the sixth and final spot went to Bruce Ford over Joel Dixon by a 307-302 count, his largest margin.

The sole change in the order was Terry Cohen moving ahead of Tim Spies to become the top vote-getter.

Here is the final order of finish:

  1. Terry Cohen, 608 (18.63%)
  2. Tim Spies, 604 (18.5%)
  3. Laura Mitchell, 486 (14.89%)
  4. Muir Boda, 446 (13.66%)
  5. Orville Dryden, 343 (10.51%)
  6. Bruce Ford, 307 (9.41%)
  7. Joel Dixon, 302 (9.25%)
  8. Michael Taylor, 168 (5.15%)

The remaining field now has just less than a month to either hold their top-3 position or try and move up. As it stands, the key battle is between third-place Laura Mitchell and fourth-place Muir Boda – either of the other contenders need to pick up well over 100 votes on April 5th to pass Mitchell and grab the last spot.

Final turnout was 1,226 voters, or 10.64% of eligible voters. This compares to 13.7% in the last similar election (2007.)

Hopefully Dixon and Taylor, who were both worthy candidates, will consider another run in 2013 or 2015. A 2013 run would place them against incumbent Debbie Campbell should she choose to run for a third term, while 2015 would see this same situation of three seats open.

A couple upcoming events:

Tomorrow (March 10): East Main Street Neighborhood Association Forum, 6:30 p.m. (Epilepsy Center, 688 East Main Street.)
Sunday, March 13: All-You-Can-Eat Chicken and Dumpling Fundraiser for Laura Mitchell, 4-7 p.m. at Sage Diner (917 S. Salisbury Blvd.) – $20. Advance registration required.

As I find out more I’ll share.

First Salisbury absentee canvass in, results slightly change

I thought this came tomorrow but the update was today.

This will be presented in order of votes acquired today, since the pattern of these absentees may provide a clue as to how the remaining few votes could fall. It may only turn out to be a few dozen votes, but now the split between moving on and moving out is just one vote.

  1. Terry Cohen +51 (now has 583, moves from second to a tie for first)
  2. Tim Spies +43 (now has 583, falls into a tie for first)
  3. Orville Dryden +34 (now has 338, stays fifth)
  4. Muir Boda +29 (now has 409, stays fourth)
  5. Joel Dixon +24 (now has 299, stays seventh)
  6. Bruce Ford +23 (now has 300, stays sixth)
  7. Laura Mitchell +21 (now has 472, stays third)
  8. Michael Taylor +11 (now has 161, stays eighth)

Interestingly, the absentees hurt Laura Mitchell quite a bit as Muir Boda gained eight votes out of the 236 counted. While it’s only 8% of the total vote, these absentees made enough difference that the battle for sixth will remain uncertain until next week.

So it’s pins and needles for both Bruce Ford and Joel Dixon until the count (and perhaps a recount) finally ends.

Unofficial Salisbury City Council results have Dixon, Taylor out

Update: absentee ballots are counted Friday – the only rankings where that could prove a difference are Spies/Cohen and, more importantly, Ford/Dixon.

And then there were two…

If the unofficial results hold up, one of the monoblogue-endorsed candidates will be knocked out in the primary while another finished out of the top three.

According to the Daily Times, here is the unofficial order of finish – I believe this does NOT include absentee ballots since they only had to be postmarked by today.

  1. Tim Spies – 540 (18.4%)
  2. Terry Cohen – 532 (18.1%)
  3. Laura Mitchell – 451 (15.4%)
  4. Muir Boda – 409 (13.9%)
  5. Orville Dryden – 304 (10.3%)
  6. Bruce Ford – 277 (9.4%)
  7. Joel Dixon – 275 (9.4%)
  8. Michael Taylor – 150 (5.1%)

Even with the two-vote margin between sixth and seventh, it’s pretty clear that the real race right now is between two people – Laura Mitchell and Muir Boda. Any of the trio of Orville Dryden, Bruce Ford, or Joel Dixon would have to increase their voter base by half again to have a legitimate shot. On the other side of the coin, it’s clear that Terry Cohen and Tim Spies have worked together to corner a large percentage of the electorate.

What I would be most curious about insofar as the voter breakdown is which precincts were well-represented. I suspect the Camden area turned out well as always, which boosted the totals of Cohen and Spies. And just as it was in the last election the aspect of teams or slates may be introduced: in 2007 the sides generally were considered as Terry Cohen, Tim Spies, and Louise Smith against Gary Comegys, John Atkins, and Don Ewalt. In that case the Camden bunch had the upper hand, getting two of three elected against those candidates considered to be in the pocket of the Salisbury Area Property Owners Association, best known as SAPOA. However, we all know how the 3-2 votes tended to turn out in the last term.

Obviously Cohen and Spies are back, and Laura Mitchell may end up being considered as part of a tag-team against Boda, Dryden, and Dixon (if he can snatch sixth place over Bruce Ford.) Based on tonight’s results Camden could get the clean sweep, which would certainly elevate either Debbie Campbell or Terry Cohen to Council president and likely kill any effort for sanity in Council districts since three members – a majority – would live in the Camden neighborhood.

And now a note on my polling. I was almost vindicated on my prediction of Ford and Taylor being out, and absentees could still hold that true. Obviously Laura Mitchell polled much better once I added the Progressive Delmarva crowd and that aspect held true in the actual election, while Tim Spies also outperformed.

On the other hand, Boda and Dixon did worse in reality than my polling would have suggested, but it pegged Orville Dryden pretty well. I figured Terry Cohen would make it easily and I was right on that one.

So the next step is for the remaining six, five of whom are pretty obvious now, to catch their breath and try to claim a portion of the expanded voter universe – many more voters will partake in the April 5th election. But as it stands the next two years may be open season on the rental industry in Salisbury, and while some would consider this a good thing turning your back on a large segment of business activity may hurt the city in the long run.

A couple scenes from the campaign trail

Just after 3:00 I went to remind myself where my polling place was, for I haven’t voted in a city election since 2005. Along the way I decided to stop by both polling locations to see what was going on outside.

This is across from the Wicomico Presbyterian Church on Broad Street. As you can see, candidate Tim Spies (left, in the hat) is among those out campaigning. It was nice to see supporters of Laura Mitchell and Michael Taylor out there – also covering the scene (but outside camera range) was local blogger Joe Albero.

Over on South Avenue in front of Harvest Baptist Church, several other candidates and supporters gathered. Back along the street is Laura Mitchell in front of Muir Boda (and behind the bearded Spies backer.) Another local blogger, Jonathan Taylor, was on the scene – he’s leaning on the car to the right of the picture.

It should get more interesting as the evening wears on, as peak voting time tends to be after work.

Salisbury primary election today

Step two of the three-step election process for Salisbury City Council hopefuls occurs today.

After filing to get on the ballot in December and January, the six-week primary campaign comes to a climax today with results probably known before 9 p.m. The top six of eight candidates move on to the April 5th general election (in other words, a five-week sprint to the finish.)

Obviously there are any number of ways the voting could turn out, with my hunch being that the veteran candidates will occupy the top three spots and three newcomers will lag somewhat behind.

But the results also allow everyone to know just how well their campaigns are running. Since primaries always have had a fraction of the general election turnout, candidates can see where they are performing best and can concentrate their efforts accordingly. There should be about 1,500 people voting today but the number will likely increase about 50% for the general election.

Having said that, though, the chances of the fourth, fifth, and sixth place candidates tonight will likely hinge on just how close they ran to the top three. Making up 100 votes is a lot easier than coming up with 300 or 500 (remember, each voter can have three choices so the actual number of votes cast should be around 4,000 for the primary and 6,000 for the general election.) Nor should the top three rest on their laurels.

Once the results are out, we can see how the remainder of the campaign could shake out.

The darkest of horses

Well, it looks like Michael Taylor got as many votes in my poll as he may get in the election at large Tuesday. (I’m only kidding – sort of.)

There are only two conclusions I can draw: either people REALLY liked my interview with the guy I posted Friday or they’re messing with my poll. Aside from the complete outlier of Taylor winning, the other seven candidates seemed to settle into the order they’ve had all along – the other notable trend is the waning popularity of Orville Dryden as he fell perilously close to missing the top 6 in the poll (assuming Taylor was an outlier, otherwise Orville finishes out of the money.) Tim Spies has also seen a downward trend.

My second possibility becomes more apparent when one looks at the pattern of voting – early on Taylor was in his usual bottom slot before he suddenly surged to the top in just a few hours. And once the field began catching him another spurt placed him well ahead again.

I am pleased that this poll had much more interest in a shorter timeframe, as 392 votes were cast.

And the final poll showed some stark differences due to the leftward influence of Progressive Delmarva. (I think it helped Laura Mitchell a lot, too.) Here’s how they stacked up, with their previous two poll finishes in (parentheses) beforehand.

  1. (7,8) Michael Taylor, 85 votes (21.86%)
  2. (3 – tie,2) Terry Cohen, 64 votes (16.33%)
  3. (8,6 – tie) Laura Mitchell, 54 votes (13.78%)
  4. (3 – tie,1) Muir Boda, 51 votes (13.01%)
  5. (1,3) Tim Spies, 48 votes (12.24%)
  6. (5,5) Joel Dixon, 36 votes (9.18%)
  7. (2,4) Orville Dryden, 34 votes (8.67%)
  8. (6,6 – tie) Bruce Ford, 20 votes (5.1%)

I think a more comprehensive (and perhaps realistic) picture occurs when the three polls I’ve done are combined.

  1. Terry Cohen, 143 votes (17.8%)
  2. Muir Boda, 134 votes (16.7%)
  3. Tim Spies, 126 votes (15.7%)
  4. Orville Dryden, 106 votes (13.2%)
  5. Michael Taylor, 101 votes (12.6%)
  6. Joel Dixon, 80 votes (10.0%)
  7. Laura Mitchell, 70 votes (8.7%)
  8. Bruce Ford, 43 votes (5.4%)

If I were to make a prediction, my guess would be that flipping Mitchell and Taylor around would probably put the actual order of finish pretty close – I think Taylor and Ford will be the two odd men out, while the three who have ran before make up your top three primary finishers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Spies in second and Boda in third, though – it’s a hunch based on Camden’s voting strength. Orville Dryden will probably be the closest to the top three, but Mitchell or Dixon could end up in fourth as well – that order is the most difficult to figure out.

But before I wrap this primary coverage up I want to thank Two Sentz and those over at Progressive Delmarva for their assistance. There will be more polling over the five weeks leading up to the general election April 5th, but I may change a few poll parameters around based on how this went.