Democratic Alderman Michael O’Connor was mingling with guests Tuesday night at La Paz restaurant after learning he had won the mayoral race in Frederick’s general election when a supporter alerted him that Republican Mayor Randy McClement was in the building.
The two walked purposely toward each other among a sea of excited Democrats, shook hands and hugged, as McClement genuinely congratulated his newly named successor.
“I had been waiting to receive a phone call from Mayor McClement,” O’Connor said later in his victory speech. “He is a class act. The mayor came in person this evening and offered his congratulations.”
O’Connor’s win ends an eight-year era that McClement had hoped to continue with a third consecutive win. But less than two hours after the polls closed Tuesday — with O’Connor keeping a steady, unwavering lead from the moment the first results came in — McClement conceded to his Democratic challenger in a speech to supporters at Brewer’s Alley.
“We did what we needed to do for eight years. We did what we needed to do for this race,” McClement said after recognizing the people who helped him over the last two terms.
“I think we ran it the right way and ran it better than I think other people did in the past,” he continued. “I think the city hopefully will be in good hands. I think all we can do is stay, watch, keep up with them, [and] speak up when you think things are wrong.”
McClement added that he intends to stay in Frederick and be around for anyone who needs his help and guidance.
According to Tuesday’s unofficial vote tallies, O’Connor received 5,093 votes over the incumbent’s 3,184. The total comes out to 58.31 percent for O’Connor and 36.46 percent for McClement. The rest were for write-in votes for mayor.
Election officials will configure the write-in results at the election canvass, which is set to kick off at 9 a.m. Thursday. Officials will certify all election results, and count the absentee ballots, after the canvass.
O’Connor consistently led McClement as soon as the first results for the election’s two days of early voting came in shortly after 8 p.m. He and all five Democrats who ran for the Board of Aldermen kept healthy leads over all of the Republicans on the ballot the entire time.
McClement and O’Connor ran a relatively friendly race, with each candidate focusing on his individual campaign rather than trying to sink his opponent.
“We’ve tried to run a campaign that was focused on ideas, aspiring to be something,” O’Connor said in his victory speech.
“I think we’ve seen over the last year it’s not enough to just be against things,” he continued. “You have to be for something, and we’ve run a campaign that was for the city of Frederick, a campaign for the citizens of the city of Frederick.”
O’Connor also recognized his campaign team and his family, notably his wife, Tammy, and two grown daughters, who surprised him by coming home Tuesday to watch the results come in, he said.
O’Connor and McClement worked together in the city government all election season, becoming direct opponents after the September primary. They have also served together for the past two terms, O’Connor as an alderman and McClement as mayor.
Issues such as the proposed downtown hotel and conference center, development of the Westside Regional Park, blighted buildings downtown, affordable housing, electoral reform, and the city’s pension system, among others, have all been pertinent topics of discussion this election season. And while the two mayoral candidates grappled a little on some methods of addressing them, they, for the most part, agreed on the details. O’Connor did consistently discuss taking a more proactive role in the hotel project and on addressing downtown blight as mayor, though.
Shelley Aloi, who lost to McClement in the Republican primary, ran an active write-in campaign for mayor in the general election. A total of 457 write-in votes came in for mayor. But election officials will not release the names until after the canvass because there were not enough to sway the race, and thus there is no way to know whether the write-ins received were for Aloi or other people. The city has no official process for registering write-ins, which means voters could write in any name they wish.
Democrats won not only the mayor’s race but all five aldermanic seats Tuesday, according to the unofficial results.
The total voter turnout Tuesday, with early voting, was relatively low at 20.95 percent. In the last general election, in 2013, the turnout was 23.53 percent. The September primary, which also included two days of early voting, returned the lowest voter turnout for a city election in recent memory at just 13.84 percent.
Staff writer Cameron Dodd contributed to this report.