Contentious Races Brewing in P.G. County

Joshua Garner | 4/23/2014, 3 p.m.
Politicians in southern Prince George's County are gearing up for one of the most competitive election cycles in recent years ...
Delegate Veronica Turner (Courtesy photo)

Politicians in southern Prince George’s County are gearing up for one of the most competitive election cycles in recent years due to an influx of candidates challenging incumbents’ seats.

District 26, the epicenter of contentious elections this cycle, includes communities in Oxon Hill, Fort Washington, Temple Hills, Camp Springs, and is home to the National Harbor and the future site of MGM National Harbor.

“It’s an interesting district,” said Sen. C. Anthony Muse, 57, who is running for reelection. “It’s no longer the sleepy district it used to be.”

A total of nine candidates are vying for three House of Delegate seats in legislative District 26 led by incumbents Del. Jay Walker, Del. Kris Valderrama, former Prince George’s Councilman Tony Knotts, David Sloan, Xavier Aragona, Tamara Davis Brown, Keith Gray, and Leonard C. Hopkins.

Del. Veronica Turner will vacate her seat in the House of Delegates to make a run for the District 26 state Senate directly challenging incumbent Muse while three other candidates are vying for the seat including community activist Jerry Mathis and Brian Patrick Woolfolk. Kelley Howells is the only candidate running as a Republican.

Prince George’s County is heavily Democratic; winners in the Tuesday, June 24 primary are expected to win the general election, which is set for Nov. 4.

During the 2010 election cycle, Muse formed a political slate, or ticket, joined by Turner, Walker, and Prince George’s Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) and became the de facto Democratic Ticket for the district. The slate subsequently won election but has since fallen apart due to what several leaders said was a breakdown in communication.

“[The ticket] disintegrated,” said Mathis, 61, who also ran for county council in 2010. “Each of them will be on their own. This will determine how good they are on their own.”

Turner said she thought long and hard before filing her candidacy for Senate and waited for Muse to communicate to her whether he was going to stay in office or possibly run for county executive. She said that she never received confirmation from him on the matter.

“I felt there was a slot open. I felt [that this] was time for a change – I had new hope,” Turner, 64, said. “It’s hard work but hard work is what I do.”

Turner said she still considers Muse a friend, but broke away from the political slate to form one with Valderrama and Sloan, a newcomer to the district election cycle.

But Muse said he extended an offer to Turner, Walker, and Valderrama to work together in the election during a meeting in Annapolis in January of 2013 but has not heard from the delegation on the issue since the meeting.

“Tickets have to jell together – you have to work as a team,” said Muse, 56. “There can’t be a sense of competitiveness.”

Walker and Valderrama said while they recall the meeting, they don’t remember Muse making an offer to join a political slate for the 2014 election.

“He held the meeting but it was very cold,” said Valderrama, 43. “It was kind of awkward. I thought it was jacked up.”

Muse hinted that Walker would still be a part of his ticket for the current election but Walker said he has formed a slate with Patterson and Knotts.

“I can’t force a senator to put me on his ticket,” Walker, 42, said. “I thought we would have some type of unity – we still have to strive toward that.”

While Muse and Turner square off for a Senate seat, Turner is leaving her delegate seat vacant and inciting one of most competitive races in the county.

“They smell blood in the water,” Mathis said of the seven non-incumbents who have entered the delegate race. “These folks are after that one seat.”

Sloan, 31, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said he’s also eyeing one of the District 26 delegate seats; the three candidates with the most votes are elected to the House of Delegates to represent the district.

“My [top] priority is voter engagement,” Sloan said. “I believe we are the only campaign that’s knocked on 8,000 doors and made over 6,000 calls [to residents].”

For more Prince George's County/Maryland news, follow @JoshuaGarnerDC on Twitter.