Salisbury Mayor’s Race: Day and King battling it out

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Salisbury Mayor Jake Day and his opponent in the upcoming city election, Wayne King, set out decidedly different visions for the city during a debate in which King hurled accusations and biting remarks at the incumbent.

Jake Day.

On the stage last week at Salisbury University, King, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican, tried to paint Day as having a politically Progressive agenda that advances socialism. He also implied the mayor was a Communist.

Day agreed he is progressive “in the sense that I like to make progress.”

And several prominent Republicans have said they like Day’s brand of progress in Salisbury. Gov. Larry Hogan, Delegate Carl Anderton, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis and Wicomico County Council President John Cannon have endorsed the mayor.

Wayne King.

“I have been so impressed with the tremendous progress made in Salisbury under Mayor Day’s leadership,” Hogan said in his recent endorsement. “I ran for office to change Maryland and Mayor Day ran for office to change Salisbury for the better – and I believe we both have.”

Several prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, also have endorsed Day in the city’s nonpartisan election.

Local business leaders, city firefighters and police officers have thrown their support behind Day as well.

Day was elected to the Salisbury City Council in 2013 and immediately became council president. He was first elected mayor in 2015.

A Salisbury native, Day has a Master of Science in Nature, Society & Environmental Policy from Oxford University, a Master of Urban Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Maryland.

Before becoming mayor, he worked for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy where he served as the director of the Center for Towns.

During his first term, Day has carried out an ambitious agenda. He initiated a program to reduce homelessness in the city, started community centers on Truitt and Newton streets, added police officers, rebuilt the Riverwalk and added an amphitheater, began improvements to long-neglected Fitzwater Street and started the Main Street revitalization plan that was approved and financed under former Mayor Jim Ireton.

Day also was successful in attracting the National Folk Festival for a three-year run in Salisbury. This year’s event had a $45 million total economic impact on the area and drew 153,911 unique visitors to the event, according to a study by the Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University.

King said he doesn’t believe any of the numbers. “I don’t like the lies around this festival,” he said. 

While Day pointed to his record of working to reduce crime and homelessness, bringing jobs to the city and developing a vibrant downtown, King, without providing specific examples, accused the mayor and other city officials of “too much you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.”

King said Day has been moving forward too fast and spending too much money, running up debt,especially on the Downtown Main Street project, and ignoring problems such as crime and homelessness.

“Jake is going from A to Z without the letters in between, “ he said.

A relative newcomer to Salisbury, King, 51, grew up in Huntington, on New York’s Long Island. He attended West Virginia University as a Business Administration major, but left school to help out in his father’s business, according to the biography on his campaign website.

Five years later, his father had a major stroke, and King took over the business. He and a partner expanded the business into different fields, selling horticultural products wholesale and retail.

“While owning this business for 20 years I was introduced to the swamp at various town halls on more than one occasion,” King said on his website.

He sold the business six years ago, then did outside sales contracting for Home Depot and Lowes.

He moved to Salisbury four years ago and lives on Priscilla Street.

While Day points to the statistics that show Salisbury has the lowest number of crimes since the city started keeping records, King sees crime as perhaps the most serious issue facing Salisbury.

“Ask your neighbor if they think crime is going down,” he said during the debate.

Both candidates were asked about the relationship between the city and Wicomico County, which has been strained in recent months when County Executive Bob Culver said the city and state Comptroller Peter Franchot acted illegally when Franchot’s office granted a license for the festival, bypassing the Wicomico County Board of License Commissioners.

Day has said that after city officials perceived the county’s licensing board was dragging its feet on approving a beer and wine license at last year’s event, the city went to Gov. Larry Hogan and then to Franchot whose office ultimately signed off on the license.

City officials have since stepped up efforts to establish Salisbury’s own liquor licensing board.

King said the relationship between the city and county is “horrible,” and that “going to Franchot was totally unacceptable.” However, he said he does support the proposed city liquor board.

While Day said he would like a better relationship with Culver, he pointed to his successful interactions with county agencies, including Parks and Recreation, the Sheriff’s Office and the State’s Attorney.

He also has a solid relationship with County Council members, including Cannon, the council president, who in his endorsement letter for Day called the mayor “an exemplary leader for the city of Salisbury.”

During the debate, King said there are rumors that Day has ambitions for higher office, and he suggested Day might run out on Salisbury in two years.

Day said he has every intention of completing another four-year term.

“I love this place,” he said. “This is not a gig to me. This is not politics to me.”

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