Yesterday, in a little town with 2,350 registered voters, an election was held where 314 votes were cast, four of them being blank. Forty-six of those votes went to the Republican candidate, George Michael Gallagher, with another sixty-one votes being cast for the Democratic candidate, Yiannes Kacoyianni – who in any other traditional election would have been declared the winner of this general election.
But this was no ordinary election.
What these two candidates weren’t counting on is the power of the insurgency behind the 22-year old write-in candidate, DaJuan Gay. Despite his name being nowhere on the official ballot for the Annapolis City Council seat, Mr. Gay was still able to convince over 200 voters* to cast their vote for this young college student. (*The official tally of write-in, absentee and provisional ballots won’t be counted until next week) In fact, in the two precincts that make up this district, 06-006 and 06-016, each witnessed more write-in votes cast than that of both the democratic and republican candidates combined.
Gay, who has previously never held a full-time job, appears to now have the job of his dreams – Ward 6 Alderman for the City of Annapolis. He will be able to celebrate another milestone later this year when he is set to graduate from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. But for now, he is focused on celebrating his recent historic milestone, becoming the first write-in candidate in the past quarter-century to successfully win a seat on the Annapolis City Council.
The council seat became vacant after the incumbent Shaneka Henson was appointed by the democratic state central committee to fill the vacant state delegate seat in District 30A following the death of Delegate Michael Busch – the state’s longest serving Speaker of the House. And instead of having an appointment process in place to fill Henson’s vacancy like what happened in the vacancy of Speaker Busch’s seat, the City of Annapolis instead fills these seats via special election.
And Gay’s road to victory was one filled with political potholes after his candidacy was stopped short during the primaries due to his treasurer filling out the candidacy paperwork incorrectly. This caused the local board to disqualify him from running in the democratic primary, but this snafu didn’t stop the DaJuan machine. After realizing he wasn’t able to run in the traditional manner of hoping to win the Primary to become his party’s nominee, DaJuan and his supporters decided instead to mount a longshot write-in candidacy. And it appears to have worked.
According to Gay’s political strategist, Richard Elliott, after DaJuan was removed as a candidate during the primaries, the team quickly shifted gears to build a playbook of how to win a write-in campaign. “By organizing several well-attended fundraisers, garnering endorsements from progressives such as Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and Anne Arundel County Executive Steaurt Pittman, and putting together an extensive door knocking operation, we were able to secure 64% of the vote because DaJuan’s community had his back the whole way and truly wanted him to represent them,” said Elliott.
Elliott says that he is “extremely proud to have helped the campaign and even prouder to know that a young, black progressive is now on the Annapolis City Council, representing public housing residents and ready to address their concerns head-on”.