What was shaping up to be a quiet election season in Ocean City heated up this week, and we are glad to see eight candidates have come forward to take a shot at the four open City Council seats.
After Tuesday’s filing deadline passed, some things in Ocean City became clear. Mayor Rick Meehan will serve another two-year term since he was unopposed, and seven men and one woman will vie for the four open council seats.
Meehan has yet to be opposed in his mayoral career. Whenever someone is given a free pass in politics, a couple things come to mind: he’s either doing a commendable job and is unbeatable or nobody wants the job. It could be a little bit of both here, but it’s much more of the former. Meehan plays a pivotal role in government in Ocean City. According to the charter, the mayor’s job in Ocean City is largely that of a figurehead. He becomes the face of Ocean City, but Meehan, by virtue of his two decades in elected office in the resort, is much more involved than his predecessors have been in the operation of the town. A lot of his input and direction can be attributed to his close relationship with City Manager Dennis Dare, the town’s chief executive, and his mentorship of Council President Joe Mitrecic, who organizes the weekly meetings.
Meehan’s impact on elections is also immense. In the weeks leading up to the filing deadline, he has said he spoke with residents he thought would be suitable for the council. Some said the time was not right, while some seemed to consider it more. Even candidates he did not ask to run have been known to request a meeting with him to get his unofficial blessing of his campaign. If he supports your candidacy, you stand a good chance of getting elected to the council. That’s one of the reasons the three incumbents have to be heavily favored in this election because he reportedly wants to see them return.
On the council side, things got extremely interesting on Tuesday. Among the candidates running for council are three incumbents, one former councilman, two men who have been unsuccessful in previous council bids and two political newcomers. As far as professions go, there’s a restauratuer, a wedding planner, a Realtor, a retired cop, a retired motelier, a retired telecommunications employee, a licensed private detective and an out-of-the-area strip club owner.
This is what Ocean City is all about. It’s a place full of residents with diverse backgrounds, and it’s safe to say there’s no lack of choice with this election. It personifies Ocean City politics. Each election there seems to be quite the mix of candidates for registered voters to choose from, and we think this is a good thing. It encourages interest among the citizens who want to hear what these folks have to say and could go a long way toward addressing a perceived apathy in the town.
Until this week’s late flurry of filings, only five candidates were seeking the four open seats. Sure, those candidates sitting pretty until Tuesday had to be a little disappointed by the late opposition, but this is the democratic way. Choice is what it’s all about.
Out of all this, our hope is the eight-person field results in more registered voters heading to the polls on Oct. 23. Two years ago, when it was essentially the exact type of election with an unopposed mayor and eight council candidates seeking four seats, Ocean City set a record for lowest turnout ever with only 24 percent, or 1,484 voters, turning out. Here’s to hoping this year is not a repeat of that dismal effort.