The Easton Town Council special election for presidential race during the last several months has morphed into nothing Maryland Talbot County citizens, and specifically, Easton, Maryland voters on this rural eastern shore, have ever witnessed in decades.
“Never seen anything like this. It is uncalled for,” said former Mayor Robert Willey, a candidate in the race.
In the end though, the voters overwhelming rejected the nasty politics.
On Tuesday night after the polls closed, Frank Gusallus was clearly leading with approximately 140 votes plus outstanding absentee votes to be counted on Wednesday.
“Thank you Easton, for the incredible support today. A nod to Mayor Willey, Kevin Bateman, and Al Silverstein for their campaigns. Eagerly awaiting the release of the official count tomorrow,” said Gunsallus.
Polls closed on Tuesday at 8pm, and the ballots were hand-counted by a team of about 10 appointed officials.
Gunsallus came in first with 835 votes; former Mayor Robert Willey came in second with 696, followed by Al Silverstein with 348 votes, and Kevin Bateman with 30 votes.
As the ballots were separated, stacked, counted and recounted, and wrapped, three candidates were present: Frank Gunsallus, former Mayor Robert Willey, and Al Silverstein, a few county and town officials standing by, election staffers finishing with their tasks after a long day, and only a handful of voters - all numbering less than 30, waiting in great anticipation for the results casted on Election Day.
One official, winked at the turnout - “landslide” for a special election as a result of the former president of the town council winning the mayoral race a few months ago.
One official privately state, “Thank God after last week.”
The last several weeks of the campaign were rough with character assassination whispers, thousands of derogatory mail drops by Scott Wagner originally from Pennsylvania because of his mail-drops criticizing Willey, which followed character swipes at Gunsallus, and then a subsequent attempt by Wagner to justify his mailings in a Star-Democrat ad, which only fueled more moral outrage by citizens, and vitriolic comments in the Talbot Spy after a debate among the four candidates at the Avalon Theatre a few weeks ago.
Only the Easton Gazette endorsed Frank Gunsallus weeks ago.
Why, because he turned his life around in the township of Easton there are people hurting who are in the midst of turning their lives around and Gunsallus’ story is an inspiration and Easton Gazette believes in sincere and committed Second Chances for All regardless of the millionaires who invest in Talbot County.
The attacks against Gunsallus were harsh. Not the full story.
And, after subsequent accusations by Scott Wagner against former Mayor Robert Willey who has served this community for three decades, the public became enlightened no matter what Wagner’s public justification were for his actions in writing.
Further revelations that business leader Paul Prager, who has invested millions into Easton did not awash the fact that Wagner and he were a team to put Al Silverstein in office.
When it was learned that Prager pressured both former Mayor Robert Willey in three meetings and Frank Gunsallus in one meeting to drop out of the race, and then demanded Easton Gazette via this journalist to rescind Easton Gazette’s endorsement of Gunsallus, Easton Gazette, Willey and Gunsallus stood firm and refused.
Prager told this journalist, he was “mad” at her and hung up the phone.
A couple of hours later, Prager called this journalist and stated, “Well, now, I am thinking of writing a Letter to the Editor at the Star-Democrat and tell them that “my friend, Christine Dolan,” called me today.
To which, this journalist asked Prager why would he insert a journalist because this journalist has never met him in person and is not his friend and this journalist called him to ask him if he was involved in Wagner’s vicious mail-drops?
Politics can be ugly and yes, sometimes - we in the press are hammered by some business leaders and people in position of power and influence, but for those who are seasoned, we are not going to back down on principle no matter what.
To all of those who participated in this cantankerous election and outraged by the political shenanigans known to you, or unknown to you, we at Easton Gazette thank you for turning out to vote and give voice to civic participation.
We congratulate Frank Gunsallus as it unofficially looks like he has won, but recognize that this race officially is not over until Wednesday.
Easton Gazette thanks former Mayor Robert Willey, his wife, and family for his and their decades of service and commitment to the community. Both the Mayor and his wife grew up in this area as did Frank Gunsallus. Matter of fact, Willey was Gunsallus father’s football coach in high school. We praise Kevin Bateman for staying in the race although he was as upset by the timbre of the political shenanigans as was Gunsallus and Willey.
As for Al Silverstein, we thank him for his past service on the town council, but perhaps, by now, Silverstein has learned that political desperate shenanigans are not inspiring and his alleged betrayal and whispers of character assassinations and the support he received for those involved in nasty politics has no place in the Easton community and Talbot County.
This community is better than that no matter if you are a wealthy man transplanted here from Pennsylvania or a “just a guy from Brooklyn” as Prager refers to himself.
There is a reason people from Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut and beyond come to the eastern shore, and specifically, Talbot County.
It is a community of Peace and Plenty of Nature, where citizens unwind and want to preserve a rural connected community.
Once you drive over the Bay Bridge, we breathe and come to a community that cares.
We have had community leaders like Mayor Robert Willey, who has been a treasure to this community. We currently have Sheriff Joe Gamble, who cares deeply about safety, children and families, and ending the opioid crises and has coached his children and their friends playing lacrosse for years. It is a community where this journalist and the community launched the first healing pilot program for trafficked and abused children in America after being designed and implemented in countries before with the local law enforcement in 2014.
We now have a new Mayor - Meghan Cooke - whose vision is to bring the community together. We have a newly elected Talbot County Councilman David Stepp, who is grounded in principle, and all of those many citizens like Jane Bollman and her environmental group, which values the beauty of this rural community so much so they fight to keep this community from flipping into a suburb of Washington, D.C., Annapolis or Baltimore to retain its treasure and beauty and preserve the Chesapeake Bay with the input from the watermen and their beloved traditions at the Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s. We have the history of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, the underground railway and Unionville, the War of 1812 in St. Michael’s and Freed Slaves community in Easton and the glorious AME Church that stands in Easton.
We have it all and none of it should be denounce or cancelled.
History is important so that we never forget the mistakes we make as mere mortals nor negate and cancel the lessons we have learned from history so current and future generations learn that we all make mistakes, but if we keep our eye on the prize for the short period in time we are here on this earth and contribute unselfishly to others and lift up others, the horizon may be brighter regardless of politics.
No matter who officially wins on Wednesday, Easton wins.
Talbot County won because citizens rejected ugly politics overwhelmingly, and for that, this community is stronger, better and blessed.
Easton Gazette stands proud to step up for decency and integrity in this community, and God bless you all for doing the same on Tuesday.