Two Political Newcomers File In Ocean City Election

OCEAN CITY — A couple more candidates threw their hats in the ring for November’s municipal election in Ocean City, but the field is far from rounded out as the filing deadline approaches.

Ocean City will hold its general election on Nov. 3 in conjunction with the federal and state elections. This year, the mayor’s seat is up for election along with four at-large City Council seats currently occupied by Council Secretary Mary Knight and Councilmembers Dennis Dare, Tony DeLuca and John Gehrig. The other seats held by incumbents Lloyd Martin, Matt James ad Mark Paddack are staggered and will come up for re-election in 2022.

With the Oct. 6 candidate filing deadline approaching, the field of candidates is starting to round out, although there are still questions about the intentions of most of the incumbents. Among the four incumbents whose seats are up, only DeLuca has formally filed thus far. Peter Buas, a lifetime resident who grew up in his family’s hospitality business and is now an attorney, filed for one of the four open council seats.

DeLuca and Buas were joined this week by relative newcomer Nicholas Eastman, who filed for one of the four open council seats. Eastman, a transplant originally from the Gaithersburg, Md. area, said this week he is familiar with Ocean City and the workings of the town government.

“I moved here two years ago and I’m buying a house next week,” he said. “I’m here to stay. I always came to Ocean City on vacation and spent summers here in college. I’ve always been drawn to this place.”

As a newcomer, Eastman said he would represent a different segment of the town’s populace than perhaps the incumbents.

“I want the public voice to be heard,” he said. “I want people to let the town know what they want the city to do for them.”

The first challenger to incumbent Mayor Rick Meehan also filed this week. Daniel Hagan is also a relative newcomer. He said this week he moved to Ocean City full-time a little less than a year ago.

“I’ve never been in politics,” he said. “I like to debate the issue, agree or disagree. I want to get in there and see what I can do because I think we’re lacking in so many things.”

Hagan said he has witnessed the town’s business community continue to struggle during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and would challenge the state on some of the directives still in place.

“I’m not afraid to stand up to the governor,” he said. “I would challenge the governor on so many things. I see so many small businesses struggling, and I want to see them succeed.”

Other than DeLuca, the other incumbents whose council seats are up for re-election have not made their intentions known yet with the Oct. 6 filing deadline approaching. Next Tuesday is the deadline for any incumbent councilperson to resign if they intend to run for mayor. Although he hasn’t filed, the presumption is Meehan will seek re-election.

Like almost everything else, voting in November’s municipal election in Ocean City will be a little different this year. Gone will be the traditional booths with voters going behind the curtain and pulling the levers for their favored candidates.

Instead, the town’s Board of Supervisors of Elections are anticipating a large majority of voters to cast their ballots by mail through the absentee ballot process because of the lingering COVID-19 concerns. For those who choose to vote in person, the election will still be held in Hall A of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on November 3, but there will be changes in the election process.

Absentee ballots are traditionally generated at the town level and ballots are mailed and returned to the City Clerk’s office.

This year, however, the board is expecting a large number of absentee ballots that could make it difficult for the board members to tally and announce the results on November 3. The absentee ballots request and application process is spelled out on a link on the town’s government website.

The process on election day itself in Ocean City will be different in other ways this year because of COVID. For example, the traditional voting booths will be replaced with paper ballots filled out at tables in the convention center and fed into scanning machines.

The change is largely in the interest of public safety. Voters will be able to distance socially and each will be provided with his or her own pen, for example. Masks will be required and eliminating the old voting booths will limit interaction and prevent board members and staff from cleaning and disinfecting the booths after every use.

This week, the Mayor and Council approved a recommendation from the Transportation Committee to offer free municipal bus service to the polls at the convention center on election day. The service will be provided from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Passengers will be dropped off at the convention center bus stop on Coastal Highway. Those with ADA needs will be dropped off at the door.

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.