Optimists proclaim Prince George’s County as a majority-Black enclave ripe with jobs fit for young professionals and middle-class families to thrive economically, socially and even spiritually.
Pessimists view the jurisdiction of slightly more than 900,000 as a place where school officials go unchecked, domestic violence-related crimes pervade and foreclosed properties linger.
To improve Prince George’s from a policy perspective, 42 people have declared candidacy in the June 26 Democratic primary election for nine district seats and two of the new at-large spots on the 11-member county council.
James Dula, president of the South County Democratic Club, doesn’t recall whether the number of candidates on the ballot ranks as the most he’s ever seen, but it’s definitely more in recent history. The two at-large seats mainly increases total candidates who seek election, he said.
“I’m not surprised because people are not very happy with the direction our county has taken,” said Dula, considered the godfather of county politics. “It’s time for a new day.”
With five current council members term-limited and two more seeking re-election, voters could ultimately elect up to nine new people.
The two remaining council members — Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park and Vice Chairman Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie — are running unopposed and would remain on the board for another four years.
Before the current council splits, some policies might receive approval this year such as a revamped zoning ordinance and updated housing initiatives.
Some of the candidates on the ballot include four current council members, two city mayors, a state delegate and former state and county officials.
Emma Andrews of Capitol Heights, a longtime community activist, said some candidates aren’t qualified and others seek the full-time position for prestige. The annual salary slightly exceeds $120,000.
“I am not supporting anyone who hasn’t been out here in the field working for people,” she said. “Some of them have no idea as to what it took for us to get to where we are. Furthermore, they don’t care.”
Here’s a list of the candidates on the ballot, which can also be found at http://bit.ly/2HYTNjf.
The two at-large seats have drawn the most interest, with nine hopefuls declaring candidacy, which hold responsibility to govern the entire county. Voters approved to amend the charter in 2016 that not only allows a person to serve for two consecutive four-year terms, but also permit current council members whose terms expire this year to run for the positions.
Councilman Mel Franklin (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro and Councilwoman Karen Toles (D-District 7) of Suitland are pursuing the seats.
The other seven candidates include: Juanita Culbrith-Miller, a member of the county’s Revenue Authority and former commissioner on the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission; Calvin Hawkins, senior adviser to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Gerron S. Levi, a former state delegate from 2007-11; and political novices Melvin Bernard Johnson, Julian Lopez, Reginald Tyer and Jonathan White.
Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe and former County Councilman Tom Dernoga seek the open seat left by Councilwoman Mary Lehman to oversee this area in the county’s northern tier that includes Laurel, Beltsville and Calverton.
Both expressed concerns about the high-speed maglev train proposed to run along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Laurel City Council approved a resolution last week to oppose the project.
Moe, who’s serving his fourth mayoral term, created “City Hall in the Park” where he would hold meetings and discuss city issues outside. He also helped lead the effort to keep Laurel Regional Hospital open.
Dernoga, an attorney who resides in Laurel and endorsed by Progressive Maryland, served on council from 2002-10 and chosen as its chair twice. He’s participated in various community forums such as whether to expand the council before voters approved it in 2016. Dernoga opposed the council expansion.
Councilwoman Deni Taveras of Adelphi prepares for a second, four-year term, but will face Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth in the primary.
Before state lawmakers overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto against paid sick leave, Taveras sought to push similar legislation on a county level more than two years ago. Tavares, born in Harlem, New York, with family from the Dominican Republic, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Barnard College and the University of Utah, respectively.
Taveras also received an endorsement from Progressive Maryland.
Hollingsworth, Hyattsville’s mayor since 2015, is the city’s youngest and first African American mayor. Prior to becoming the city’s leader, she was elected in 2011 to the City Council.
The Memphis, Tennessee, native, who received bachelor’s degree from Emory University and master’s in public policy from Georgetown University, has two children in the public school system.
The seat becomes open due to term limits for Councilwoman Andrea Harrison. Harrison will run for state delegate in the 24th legislative district.
Five people filed to obtain the seat that covers municipalities and neighborhoods such as Bladensburg, Cheverly and Landover, which houses the new Fairmount Heights High School and FedEx Field.
Former state Delegate Jolene Ivey, wife of former county State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, manages her own communications company. Her website lists several endorsements that include various unions, Progressive Maryland and CASA de Maryland.
Former Fairmount Heights Mayor Patricia Waiters also joined the field after she lost her bid to retain the mayoral seat in May by almost 20 votes.
The other three candidates are Rochelle Mincey-Thompson, a human resources executive, Walter Lee James Jr. and Albert Slocum.
Councilman Derrick Leon Davis of Upper Marlboro has two other men challenging him for the seat that represents District Heights, Kettering and portions of Upper Marlboro.
The district’s considered the heart of Prince George’s where some of the county offices will relocate to Largo and house the new $543 million regional medical center near the Largo Metro station.
Although Davis was elected in a special election in September 2011, he didn’t serve a full, four-year term. He was elected to a first term in 2014 and seeks a second, consecutive term this year.
The other two candidates in the race are Ryan Christopher Greene, an author and founder of GreenHouse Media, and Duane Anthony Staples.
With Toles being term-limited, a new person will oversee Capitol Heights, Hillcrest Heights and Seat Pleasant, hometown of NBA star Kevin Durant, who visited Suitland High School on Feb. 27 to donate $10 million for disadvantaged students to attend college. The money will come through his foundation at the Durant Center scheduled to open later this year in Seat Pleasant.
Eight people who filed their candidacies to seek the open seat are: Karen Anderson, president of the Suitland Civic Association; Bruce Branch, a community activist who owns a communications company; Michele Clarke, member of county teacher’s union; Krystal Oriadha, co-chair of Progressive Maryland’s county chapter. The other candidates are Air Force veteran BJ Paige, Army veteran Gary Lee Falls Jr., Juan Stewart Jr. and Rodney Colvin Streeter.
Councilman Obie Patterson, who also served in the state legislature, is running for state senator in the 26th District. If elected, he would succeed C. Anthony Muse, who is running for county executive.
In meantime, five people seek to obtain the seat that governs Camp Springs, Oxon Hill and one the county’s biggest property taxpayer, MGM National Harbor casino resort.
Delegate Tony Knotts (D-District 26) of Fort Washington ended months of speculation about his pursuit for County Council. Knotts officially filed for his candidacy Feb. 26, one day before the filing deadline.
Another candidate, Monique Anderson Walker, works as a principal broker for Fleur de Lis, a real estate company in Oxon Hill. She’s also the wife of Delegate Jay Walker (D-District 26) of Fort Washington.
The other candidates are Carlton C. Carter, a former school principal who made an unsuccessful bid in 2016 for school board; Karen Elizabeth Porter and Markida Lynette Walker.
Eight candidates seek the open seat held by Franklin, who’s taking his “jobs first” platform for a run at the at-large seat due to term limits.
The person to govern this seat will help lead the area known as South County, including Accokeek, parts of Upper Marlboro and Brandywine at the Charles County border.
The candidates include:
• Sydney Harrison, a clerk for the county’s Circuit Court
• Tamara Davis Brown, a lawyer who received an endorsement from Progressive Maryland and opened her campaign headquarters Saturday, March 3 in Accokeek
• Rodney C. Taylor, associate director of Prince George’s Animal Management Division and Orlando Barnes, a lawyer and former county police officer
• Jeffrey Rascoe, who runs a nonprofit organization called Cementing Foundations Inc. to assist men and their roles as fathers
The other candidates are Tanya J. Brooks, Navy veteran Kevin Harris and Daren L. Hester.