Home Latest Stories Ocean City Election Brings Drama and a Few Surprises

Ocean City Election Brings Drama and a Few Surprises

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Third Ward Councilman Jody Levchuk and City Clerk Melissa Rasner discuss the vote totals in the close race.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI and MADDY VITALE

In a razor-thin margin that separated opponents by just two votes, Ocean City’s Third Ward City Council race was too close to call on Election Night.

Third Ward incumbent Jody Levchuk received 391 votes, while challenger Amie L. Vaules had 389 votes in unofficial totals Tuesday.

“I thought it would be close because it was me versus the machine,” Levchuk said, referring to Mayor Jay Gillian and his supporters.

Gillian said he will wait for all of the votes to be counted in the next week before commenting on the election.

“That’s why I love democracy so much,” Gillian said of the election excitement.

Gillian backed Vaules in the race, not Levchuk. While studying the vote totals, Levchuk said all he could do right now is to wait for the provisional ballots and the remaining mail-in votes to come in to decide the election.

“I’m feeling really good right now. This is to be continued,” Levchuk said.

From left, candidates Dave Winslow, Terry Crowley Jr., Amie Vaules and Sean Barnes celebrate at the VFW after the polls close.

Vaules, meanwhile, expressed confidence that she would be able to overcome her two-vote deficit to win the race.

She noted there were quite a few provisional ballots and mail-in votes still to be counted.

Despite being a newcomer to elected politics, she said she received a warm and enthusiastic reception during the campaign while meeting with voters.

“The feedback I got from meeting with a lot of voters was very positive,” Vaules said. “It reflected the positivity I brought to the campaign, my determination and my passion for the city.”

Another political newcomer, Sean Barnes, defeated former First Ward Councilman Mike DeVlieger to win the lone at-large Council seat up for grabs in the election. Barnes received 1,778 votes, while DeVlieger had 1,261.

Although he is new to politics, Barnes said he is well-known in the community because of his longtime ties to Ocean City.

“I’m an Ocean City guy and people know that,” he said.

City Clerk’s Office Assistant Nicole Driscoll and City Clerk Melissa Rasner collect voting cartridges.

Barnes said he came into the race with an open mind and did not have “a preconceived agenda.”

Voters reacted positively to his campaign, he said.

“They want change, common sense and clarity,” he said.

The opening for the at-large Council seat was created when Councilwoman Karen Bergman stepped down from the governing body in January to take a new job as supervisor of Ocean City’s Howard S. Stainton Senior Center.

In other races, First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. ran unopposed and received 659 votes.

Crowley said he wasn’t surprised that he didn’t have an opponent.

“I was happy I didn’t have an opponent,” he said.

He said it reflected his hard work, accountability and “doing the right thing for the taxpayers of Ocean City.”

First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. and his son, Ian, meet with supporters at the VFW.

In the Second Ward race, former Councilman Keith Hartzell was successful in his campaign bid to regain a seat on the governing body. He received 353 votes, while his opponent, political newcomer Paul Stryker, had 302 votes.

The win secured Hartzell’s return to City Council. Hartzell was a longtime at-large councilman before stepping down in 2022 in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Mayor Jay Gillian.

Hartzell said he was “ecstatic,” about his win.

“I am grateful to the residents in this community. I love the town. I love the Second Ward. It has historic parts, and I believe I got put back on Council to protect the neighborhood,” he said. “I feel it is very important to make sure to preserve the neighborhood and not to overwhelm it with overdevelopment.”

He said it was not an easy win by any means.

“I ran against a machine,” Hartzell said. “I had to work hard.”

In the final race, Fourth Ward Councilman Dave Winslow retained his seat with 512 votes against challenger and former school board member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes, who received 380 votes.

School board members Michael Allegretto and Jocelyn Palaganas speak with each other at the VFW.

Winslow declared victory on Election Night, pointing to his more than 100-vote lead over Gallelli-Keyes.

He attributed his win to the positive campaign that he ran while seeking re-election to the Fourth Ward.

“We did not do anything negative,” he said. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

Overall, voter turnout was low among the city’s 9,490 registered voters.

The unofficial election results include vote-by-mail ballots received by the Board of Elections before the polls closed and the Election Day voting machine tally.

Not included in the unofficial election results are vote-by-mail ballots mailed on or before Election Day but not yet received, vote-by-mail ballots for which “cure letters” have been issued and provisional ballots, according to the official website capemaycountyvotes.com.

The official results will be posted on May 22 and on May 23 the city clerk will certify the election.

Keith Hartzell, right, seated next to Councilman Jody Levchuk, served on City Council from 2006 to 2022 and is now returning to the governing body.