Marcuccio, Gajewski Reflect on the Mayoral Race
Gajewski: 'Now other people will have a turn.'
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said that she believes that voters who re-elected her on Tuesday appreciate her efforts to increase citizen input in Rockville government.
“I think people probably responded to the fact that I am a ‘people mayor.’ I am a person who listens to our citizens, I care a great deal [about] what happens to the city, from their point of view,” she said. “That’s been my mantle. I reflect, I think, citizen input. I want so much for them to be a part of what kind of decision-making goes on in the city. And I think that message was pretty clear to the voters.”
Marcuccio won a second term on Tuesday by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin over two-term Councilman Piotr Gajewski. Rockville voters also re-elected council members Bridget Donnell Newton and Mark Pierzchala and John Hall, who served on the City Council from 2001 to 2005. Tom Moore, the chairman of the city's Compensation Commission who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2009, will be the council's only newcomer.
Marcuccio won a hotly contested mayoral race that saw Gajewski go on the offensive, often using City Council debates to contrast his voting record against Marcuccio’s.
Marcuccio challenged the notion of any incivility on her part.
“I think I have put up with tongue-lashings, unpleasant commentary, posturing that was unnecessary, just because I believe in civility,” she said in an interview at a post-election victory party. “And, without the agitation, I don’t think you’ll notice any uncivil behavior [on the new council].”
Gajewski cited allegations of illegal contributions to his campaign and a lack of support in his home district in the King Farm community as reasons for his defeat.
“I think the campaign in the last few days, pointing to contributions that I received and implying that they were somehow improper and unethical was successful,” he said in an interview late Tuesday. “Certainly that made a huge difference in King Farm.”
Gajewski said he felt he had “no opportunity to respond” to allegations that arose in the campaign’s waning days.
Gajewski officially launched his campaign in June, saying that he was the person to fill what he called a “leadership void” in the city.
He criticized Marcuccio’s votes on borrowing for public infrastructure projects, including upgrades to the city’s water pipes, expansion of the public works and parks maintenance complex on Gude Drive and financing to convert the old U.S. Post Office in Town Center into a new Rockville City Police station.
He also criticized Marcuccio’s vote against renewing city manager Scott Ullery’s contract last year and said Marcuccio waffled on the draft for a redevelopment plan for Rockville Pike.
Marcuccio also announced her re-election bid in June, at an announcement interrupted by the Town Square fountain activating during her speech.
She highlighted her efforts to make City Hall more inclusive of citizens, a platform she ran on when she was first elected mayor in 2009.
Marcuccio took credit for forging relationships with the Gaithersburg City Council on common issues such as the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan. She also highlighted her efforts to reach out to the county school system on how to meet school construction needs in the Richard Montgomery cluster and how to incorporate school construction with the city’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.
The mayor, an at-large member of the Maryland Municipal League’s board of directors, also took credit for advocating for the General Assembly to restore $13.2 million statewide to repair and maintain local roads.
Over the past two years on the council, Gajewski, Councilman Mark Pierzchala and Councilman John Britton often voted on one side and Marcuccio and Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton voted on the other.
In a rare moment of unity on a big issue, Marcuccio and Gajewski both voted against the $107.2 million fiscal 2012 city operating budget.
Marcuccio, who had advocated unsuccessfully for reducing the tax rate to 28.9 cents per $100 of assessed value, said that she voted against the budget because it raised taxes. Gajewski said he voted against the budget because it did not retain a $100 homeowner tax credit that had been included in the four prior budgets. Gajewski was the lone vote in favor of retaining that credit.
About 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday—more than an hour before the city announced the unofficial election results—Gajewski told supporters at his campaign headquarters on Rockville Pike that they could go home.
A poll observer for the campaign reported that Gajewski had lost King Farm by 16 votes.
“When you examine the returns, I was very disappointed not to carry my own district,” Gajewski said late Tuesday. “That kind of tells the story.”
Gajewski wished the new council well, citing Moore as one to watch.
“I can’t help but to think that in coming years he will play a major leadership role,” Gajewski said.
For his part, Gajewski said he “never had any intention of any kind of political career. I thought I could be of service to the City of Rockville. I’m proud of the accomplishments of the last four years. Now other people will have a turn.”
Marcuccio said she hopes that the new council will be able to find “common ground” on one of the biggest issues facing it: The selection of a new city manager.
“We’re choosing a new city manager, a new city clerk and you have a new City Council,” she said. “So that’s a big dynamic shift. And let’s say I hope we’re going to get a new way of working.”