The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election isn’t the only decision residents of the Town of Chesapeake Beach will have to weigh in November. According to a town government press release, in addition to selecting a mayor, all six town council seats are up for grabs. Residents will also be asked to weigh in on two controversial issues involving betting.
The town’s incumbent mayor is Patrick J. “Irish” Mahoney, who will be seeking his second term at the helm. Mahoney is being challenged by former council member Stewart B. Cumbo and Joshua Johnson.
In addition to all six incumbents, two challengers have tossed their hats in the ring. One of the current council members — Charlie Fink — was appointed last year to fill Cumbo’s unexpired term. Cumbo was forced to vacate the seat after entering an Alford plea to a single charge of violating Maryland’s wiretap statute. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement that prosecutors have enough evidence to support a charge. A judge gave Cumbo probation before judgement, a $2,500 fine and three years of supervised probation.
In addition to Fink, council incumbents on the ballot are the council’s vice president, Valerie L. Beaudin, who is seeking her fifth consecutive term, as well as Derek Favret, Lawrence Jaworski, Greg Morris and Keith Pardieck. Two others have filed to run for the council — Gary W. Curzi and Jonathan Evans.
The town’s voters also have a chance to answer ballot questions that seek public opinion on expanded gaming in Chesapeake Beach. The questions, which need a yes or no answer are:
“Do you support the State of Maryland awarding full casino gambling licenses — i.e. table gaming, casino slots etc. — to a venue or venues in Chesapeake Beach?” and, “Do you support the State of Maryland awarding sports betting licenses—i.e. sports betting, off-track racing etc. — to a venue or venues in Chesapeake Beach?”
“It’s the best way to take a survey,” said Mahoney when asked how the questions got on the ballot. The mayor explained the town council conducted a work session last year and decided the ballot questions would be the most effective way to gauge public opinion “given the angst in town.”
Currently, three town businesses — Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort, Trader’s Seafood, Steak and Ale, and Abner’s Crab House — have pull-tab machines, which mimic slot machines.
“I am committed to Chesapeake Beach,” Johnson stated in an email to Southern Maryland News. “With choosing this area because of the schools and the small businesses that are thriving, it’s worth fighting for as there clearly is a lack of focus on how to keep it thriving.”
Johnson, a Midwest native, recently organized a coalition of vacation rental property owners in town who have seen a disruption of their enterprises due to the code enforcement’s effort to make property owners adhere to a municipal ban on rental agreements of less than 30 days.
“Tourism is our lifeblood,” said Johnson. “We as a community may need to think about diversifying if we intend on changing that. The community as a whole should decide that, however. What we cannot do is cut or hinder the largest source of revenue that helps the town and its constituents.”
“We’ve had an exciting four years,” Mahoney told Southern Maryland News. “With the support of our citizens, town council and staff, we have been able to reduce taxes four years in a row. We now have assumed ownership of Kellam’s Field from the county at no cost to the town. During this pandemic, with strong leadership, we have reduced citizens’ exposure to COVID. We’re going to continue to keep our people safe and keep our town in the black.”
On the subject of safety, Mahoney stated that while the April 2019 residential fire that claimed two lives was tragic, town leadership worked well with county and state officials to recover quickly. “We opened up town hall as a command center,” said Mahoney. “We are a resilient town.”
Mahoney expressed enthusiasm for the next four years, especially with the addition of more sidewalks, the construction of a new Beach Elementary School and planned additions to recreational facilities.
Cumbo stated his 19 years of experience on the town council, advocacy for procurement of grant funds and past leadership roles with the Maryland Municipal League qualifies him to serve as Chesapeake Beach mayor.
“I have been asked to run by several citizens and business owners to run,” Cumbo told Southern Maryland News, adding that those advocating for his candidacy “are not happy with the current mayor and town administrator.” He added that there has been “a lack of transparency in the town and even among town staff.”
Cumbo said he would be an advocate for “diversity within town staff.”
The former councilman also stated that the town over the last four years has become “stale. There are no real visual projects like there were under [mayors] Gerald Donovan and Bruce Wahl.”
Town officials have announced that a “virtual candidate forum” will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be moderated by the League of Women Voters of Calvert County.
Citizens are encouraged to submit an absentee ballot application even if they plan to vote in person as voters may pre-fill the ballot and bring it to town hall and vote in person.
“The Chesapeake Beach Board of Elections has worked to provide a transparent, safe and accessible election for town citizens,” board chairman Randy Getman stated in a press release. “The board has established an absentee ballot process that citizens can count on to cast their votes and safety measures for in-person voting.”
Voting in at the Chesapeake Beach Town Hall will take place Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Election officials advise that each voter entering the polling room must wear a mask.