Following nearly 18 months of speculation about which office he would run for in 2022, Del. Carl L. Anderton Jr. (R-Lower Shore) said Monday he would seek re-election to a third term in Annapolis – and pass on a bid to become Wicomico County executive, at least for the near-term future.
Anderton — whose District 38B includes portions of Salisbury as well as the town of Delmar, where he was previously mayor — said issues arising out of the pandemic had played a major role in his decision.
“We still have people who need help. I don’t want to abandon anybody, because when you become [county] executive, you can’t go help those folks like you do now,” he said in a telephone interview, adding: “If we had the slate cleared of all the constituent cases, that might be a different situation.”
He continued: “Not to quote a song, but it is well with my soul to go ahead and work in Annapolis for my neighbors a little while longer. I know a lot of folks who are probably going to be upset by that, but I think the folks in the district will probably be happy about that.”
Anderton indicated he remains very interested in a run for county executive in the future — as soon as four years from now. “I can’t stress enough that the way folks in the county have reached out asking me to run for executive — it’s really amazing,” he said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
When Wicomico County Executive Robert L. “Bob” Culver Jr. (R) died of cancer in July 2020, Anderton quickly applied to fill the vacancy — and was seen as the early frontrunner. But his bid for the appointment was blocked when a bare majority of the seven-member county council — including three of the four Republican members of that body — voted against his appointment.
What ensued was a weeks-long political stalemate over who would fill the vacant post, with the council finally breaking the deadlock by naming the county’s director of administration, John D. Psota, as acting county executive pending the 2022 election. Psota announced late last year that he would seek the Republican nomination for a four-year term in the post.
Since failing to win the appointment as county executive, Anderton had held open the possibility of running for the job this year. A former president of the Maryland Municipal League, he scored a major political upset in 2014 when he ousted Democratic Del. Norman H. Conway, then chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Anderton was unopposed both for renomination and re-election in 2018, and enters his bid for a third term as an overwhelming favorite in a district where no one had filed as of late Monday. County Councilmember Joshua A. Hastings (D), who had been eyeing a bid for Anderton’s House seat if the latter had run for county executive, is now all but certain to seek re-election to his council seat.
Hastings, who joined with another Democrat and one Republican on the council to support Anderton’s application to be appointed county executive in August 2020, has had a friendly relationship with the Republican delegate. Anderton’s habit of frequently working across the political aisle — notably with the Democratic mayor of Salisbury, Jacob R. “Jake” Day — is said to have been among the contributing factors to the resistance to Anderton’s appointment by Republicans on the county council.
Anderton said Monday the opposition he had encountered among fellow Republicans at the time was “not really” part of his decision to seek re-election rather than running for executive this year.
“I think it’s probably natural to be a little bit gun shy, but…that was a job interview. This would be an election — it’s totally different,” he contended, adding “I trust the people of this county way more than I trust a couple of council members who may have different thoughts in mind.
“And we’ve seen one of the folks who voted against me is running for executive, so now I understand that vote more clearly. I wouldn’t want to run against me either,” chuckled Anderton. His reference was to Councilmember Ernest F. Davis, the one Democrat to join with the three Republican council members to block his appointment. Davis late last year filed for his party’s nomination for executive.
Anderton added that one of the Republicans to vote against him, Councilmember Nicole Acle, had also considered a run for county executive before filing last week for delegate in District 37B.
But he emphasized his decision not to run for executive was influenced primarily by “where, in my opinion, could I do the most good today. We’re still coming out of a pandemic; we still have a rough road economically ahead. To be able to lobby directly to the next governor and leadership on what will help Wicomico County businesses and residents to flourish I think has to outweigh my personal thoughts of being county executive.”
He also said he believes staying in his current position will help the continuing push for a top Wicomico County priority — building a county-run waste water system. “Being a former mayor, I know what the municipalities are looking for in sharing their waste water space with the county. I know what the county needs to do to make that happen,” Anderton said. “If I’m coming at it from the executive position, it may look like I’m trying to favor one thing over the other.
“So maybe staying in this position [in the House] will allow me to be perceived as more an honest broker, and really lay the groundwork to move forward — and then come in four years and put it in place,” he added, alluding to a possible run for executive in 2026.
With Anderton out, the field for county executive includes Psota and Julie Giordano, a teacher and conservative activist, competing for the Republican nomination, and Davis alone in the primary for the Democratic nod — in a county of a little more than 100,000 in which registration between the two major parties is fairly evenly split.
Fundraising by the three county executive candidates to date has been meager: Reports filed the week before last showed Psota having raised $15,350 since announcing in November, with nearly all of that remaining in his campaign treasury.
Giordano raised just under $6,000, with a little more than $6,000 on hand. Davis reported no contributions and just $175 in the bank.