The three non-incumbent Democratic aldermanic candidates who secured spots on the general election ballot this week were already out and about witnessing city business Thursday at a high-profile Historic Preservation Commission meeting.
Ben MacShane, Derek Shackelford and Roger Wilson joined a large crowd of spectators who came to the meeting, where commissioners voted 6-1 to allow demolition of the Birely Tannery building for construction of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.
The trio and alderwomen Donna Kuzemchak and Kelly Russell beat out five other candidates in Tuesday’s primary to make up the Democratic ticket for the general election. They will face off with five Republicans — Bruce Blatchley, Katie Bowersox, Hayden Duke, Alan Imoff and Nate Power — for five spots on the board.
Thursday’s hearing lasted about three and a half hours, most of which was made up of public comments. A lopsided breakdown of speakers — 23 in favor of demolition and 16 against — made the best of their three-minute time allotments to try and convince the commissioners to side with them. The aldermanic candidates did not make any public comments.
“Really, I was just there to see the decision of the HPC,” MacShane said Friday of why he attended the meeting. “This question of the Birely Tannery has been on my mind and has been important to a lot of people in the community. Residents, members of the business community, the historic preservation community. I really wanted to see the determination of what the Historic Preservation Commission was for myself.”
MacShane added that he plans to attend more city meetings in the coming weeks to observe local government at work as he campaigns for the general election.
“We have a lot of great committees and commissions in the city and I think it’s really valuable to see firsthand what some of the conversation and discourse is,” he said.
Wilson, who works as Frederick County’s director of government affairs and public policy, said he attended the meeting for similar reasons as MacShane.
“I was there just to observe the process,” he said Friday.
Wilson added that he supports the commission’s decision and has made his support for the downtown hotel project known.
“My position has always been 100 percent behind the city’s economic project of the hotel conference center,” he said. “This is one step in the process. I think the HPC did a very good job at the public process. That’s very important, the public process.”
Kuzemchak also attended Thursday’s meeting as the aldermanic liaison to the commission.
Speaking of the election
The countdown is officially on until city voters will go to the polls and select their representatives for the next four years.
Tuesday’s primary officially secured the nominees for the general election for mayor and Board of Aldermen. The candidates will now move on to the general election, which is set for Nov. 7 with early voting slated Oct. 27 and 28.
That gives everyone running for office 39 days to campaign before the first voters cast their ballots.
The ballot will include Republican Mayor Randy McClement facing off against Democratic Alderman Michael O’Connor for mayor and 10 candidates vying for five spots on the Board of Aldermen.
While alderwomen Kuzemchak and Russell are running for re-election, three spots are up for grabs, with O’Connor seeking the mayor’s seat and aldermen Josh Bokee and Phil Dacey not running for re-election.
All registered voters are eligible to vote in the general election, while only Democrats and Republicans could cast ballots in the primary.
City election officials will also reopen voter registration Sept. 22. Residents who are not registered to vote have until Oct. 6 to register.