No Challengers Yet To Ocean City Council Incumbents

OCEAN CITY — With just days remaining before the candidate filing deadline, only the four council incumbents have filed for re-election.

Four Ocean City Council seats are up for re-election on Nov. 8, including those held by incumbents Doug Cymek, Dennis Dare, Tony DeLuca and Mary Knight. Each of the four incumbents filed for re-election on the same day back in January in a show of solidarity and a desire to keep the momentum going for what has been, by their own estimation, a productive last four years.

However, as of late Thursday, just five days before the municipal election candidate filing deadline, no other challengers had yet come forward. The official filing deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 11.

It remains to be seen if any challengers come forward, but it certainly raises some interesting questions. Does the apparent lack of candidates thus far validate the job the current council has done over the last few years? Did the deadline sneak up on potential candidates still working and living through the last vestiges of summer? Is there a general apathy about the pending municipal election, especially with the national election crammed down the citizens’ throats at nearly every turn?

The answer is likely a combination of all of the above, but with the election now just a month away, there have been no campaign signs, no debates and really no indication the majority of the City Council seats are up for grabs this year.

What is certain is the current incumbents whose seats are up for re-election on Nov. 8 are a unified group intent on keeping the team together. In a show of solidarity, Cymek, Dare, DeLuca and Knight all filed for re-election in a coordinated and symbolic signing ceremony on a dreary afternoon way back in early January. The consistent message among the incumbents was the positive direction and healthy dynamics of the current council and a desire to keep that intact. For example, Cymek said during the symbolic filing ceremony in January the current council is proud of its accomplishments and has unfinished business to see through.

“We’re hoping to send an image of solidarity,” said Cymek. “We all work well together and we’ve gotten to know each other well and we feel like we’re taking this town in the right direction. I’m excited about a lot of the things we’ve been able to accomplish with this group. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot in a short time and that’s because we work so well together. We don’t always agree, but we always talk things out and move in a direction that is best for the town.”

In Ocean City municipal elections, the seven council seats are staggered in alternating election cycles to prevent a potential complete turnover in a single election year. In addition, the mayor’s seat comes up in each election, but Mayor Rick Meehan has not been challenged in recent years. Incidentally, as of late Thursday, Meehan had not filed for re-election, although he had picked up the requisite paperwork and was expected to at any time. For his part, Meehan said this week the lack of challengers thus far does somewhat validate the incumbents.

“I think that the current council has done an excellent job representing all of our citizens and I think this is recognized by the voters,” he said. “They have been respectful and responsive to the needs of the residents and property owners and have worked hard to hold the tax rate, improve infrastructure and provide services. I think the community as a whole supports the incumbents and I look forward to continuing to work with the current council.”

Among the four incumbents whose seats are up for re-election in November, Knight is the senior councilmember. Knight was first elected in 2006 and has served as council secretary since 2012. Cymek was first elected in 2008 and earned a second term after getting re-elected in 2012.

Dare joined the council in 2012 after a rather tumultuous election during which there was one of the biggest turnovers in recent memory. However, he is certainly no stranger to municipal government. Dare served as city engineer in Ocean City from 1982 to 1990 and as city manager from 1990 to 2012.

DeLuca’s situation is somewhat unique among the incumbents seeking re-election in November. As the fourth-leading vote-getter in the last election, DeLuca is essentially filling out the term of former Councilman Joe Mitrecic, who was elected as a Worcester County Commissioner in 2014. As such, DeLuca is just in his second year on the council, but will need to be re-elected in November to retain his seat. The other three current councilmembers, Council President Lloyd Martin, Councilman Wayne Hartman and Councilman Matt James, were also elected in 2014 and their seats will not come up for re-election until 2018.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.