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Muckraker: Three incumbents aim to box out a challenger in Westminster’s partisan Common Council election on May 9th

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City of Westminster Administration Building

With three seats on the Westminster Common Council up for grabs come election day on May 9th, three incumbent Council Members seeking reelection are being positioned as something of a slate to box out a fourth candidate hoping to pluck one of the three seats for himself.  

The slate of three incumbents includes two registered Republicans, Kevin Dayhoff and Anne Gilbert, and one Democrat, Council President Greg Pecoraro. The trio of establishment Westminster figures are aligned in their interest to remain seated while challenging conservative Republican Scott Willens looks to break through.   

Willens, a veteran and veterinarian, finished 6th out of 8 in a loaded District 5 Delegate race last summer after collecting an assortment of club endorsements, besting former Commissioner Dennis Frazier and brewer Scott Jendrek in a contest for three seats eventually won by Eric Bouchat, Chris Tomlinson, and April Rose, who barbed Willens during a District 5 Delegate debate after his sustained offensive directed at her associate Tomlinson.     

A vocal PhD holding conservative with a range of opinions, Willens was referred to as a “MAGA extremist” by Carroll’s Democratic Central Committee in an email they recently sent instructing their members to vote for Dayhoff, Gilbert, and Pecoraro.   

The incumbent slate materialized further when fellow Council Member Dan Hoff endorsed the trio on Facebook, showing how their campaign signs were positioned together on his properties in a post where he separately lauds the lobbying work done by himself, Pecoraro, and Westminster’s far-left Mayor Mona Becker on behalf of the City in Annapolis.    

Pecoraro, a Johns Hopkins University graduate who is now the CEO of an aviation association that lobbies federal policymakers, has been a member of the Council for 23 of the last 29 years. After previously functioning as the chair of Carroll’s Democratic Central Committee and as Parliamentarian for the Maryland Democratic Party, he was recently named to far-left Comptroller Brooke Lierman’s transition team.    

Gilbert, who secured a Masters Degree in Education from McDaniel College, works as a Case Manager for the Maryland Department of Social Services and previously served as a Board Member for the Westminster youth non-profit Together We Own It.

Dayhoff, a regular contributor to The Carroll County Times and The Baltimore Sun, makes for a curious Republican considering his membership with Carroll’s NAACP and his recent attendance alongside Becker at a grand opening for a new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) safe space unveiled by PFLAG at Saint Paul’s United Church mere feet from the Westminster government building. 

The new LGBTQIA+ safe space, called the Unity Center, has a game room and media room, and offers loan outs of queer themed books and DVDs. It has scheduled programming for adults and children aged 10-18 involving video games, board games, snacks, and ping-pong. 

The endorsement of the Unity Center by Becker and Dayhoff, as demonstrated by their attendance at its grand opening, reveals the deep and present political partisanship animating the election that will inform the future of Westminster. 

Local elected officials are much more than narrow policy makers ensuring the trash gets picked up on time. They are influencers, deal makers, and culture setters. The events they attend, the organizations they associate with, and the keywords they use in public speech and private conversation are all an expression of values that mold the community in the aggregate as ordinary citizens look to model the behavior of their most visible leaders.

The City of Westminster’s partnership with a McDaniel College institutionally oriented towards diversity and equity is a partisan issue. Some of Carroll County’s largest employers sponsoring the Westminster Pride Festival is a partisan issue. Westminster’s Mayor researching race and gender diversity in chemistry textbooks is a partisan issue. A drag show open to minors in a Westminster hotel is a partisan issue. And a new LGBTQIA+ safe space with video games is a partisan issue too.

And even if the Common Council directly adjudicates few or none of these matters, their ideas and perspectives as regards them tangibly influences the community. That is what will be at stake come May 9th.

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