The Washington Post

Incumbents get first wins in tight Prince George’s council races

Most contests remain too close to call after Tuesday’s primaries

- BY DANIEL WU

Incumbents Sydney J. Harrison (D-district 9) and Edward Burroughs III (D-district 8) were the first projected winners in crowded Prince George’s County Council contests, but few clear winners had emerged days after Tuesday’s primary election.

Harrison, the council vice chair, and Burroughs held commanding leads in their races as of Friday afternoon. With Thomas E. Dernoga (D-district 1) and Jolene Ivey (D-district 5), running unopposed, at least four incumbents are set to return for a second term on the 11-member council.

“I’m extremely humbled to have the opportunit­y to serve the community that raised me,” Harrison said Friday, pledging to focus on improving access to health care, transit and food amenities in a district spanning the southern portion of the county, from Upper Marlboro to Accokeek.

Democratic voters opted to return Burroughs to a seat he won in a special election in January. In deep-blue Prince George’s, winning the Democratic primary is often indicative of who will win the general election, although victors must compete with Republican nominees and any thirdparty candidates in the general election. Only one Republican council candidate, Gary Falls in District 7, is slated to appear on the ballot.

Burroughs, a vocal critic of the county’s political establishm­ent, had his January victory hailed by grass-roots group Progressiv­e Maryland as a sign Prince George’s voters were frustrated with the status quo. He said Friday that his district needs to provide more services for seniors and incentiviz­e retail developmen­t.

“I believe the people of the county spoke pretty clearly about the type of council they want,” Burroughs added.

Two more incumbents, council chair Calvin S. Hawkins II (D-AT Large) and Mel Franklin (D-AT Large), and District 3’s Eric Olson, who previously served on the council between 2006 and 2014, also led their races as of Friday afternoon, but the contests were too close to call as election officials made their way through mail-in ballots that, under Maryland law, couldn’t begin to be counted until two days after the election.

Contests in Districts 2, 4 and 6, where newcomers will replace outgoing Deni Taveras (D-district 2), interim council member Johnathan M. Medlock (D-district 6), and term-limited Todd M. Turner (D-district 4), also remained competitiv­e on Friday.

Winners in the remaining primary contests will be projected over the coming days and weeks. County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks won her primary election comfortabl­y on election night Tuesday.

Although the council courted controvers­y last year when it redrew district lines that initially shuffled some liberal candidates out of their contests, voters appeared to favor familiarit­y in several crowded races this cycle. The council’s actions drew a lawsuit and accusation­s of gerrymande­ring, and the map was eventually thrown out by the Maryland Court of Appeals. In a June interview, Hawkins, the council chair, told The Washington Post he took responsibi­lity for the controvers­y.

At stake is the balance of power in a council that barely fended off liberal challenger­s last election cycle. Two Progressiv­e Marylandba­cked candidates that would’ve been displaced under the initial council map, Olson and District 7’s Krystal Oriadha, led their district races as of Friday afternoon. Oriadha was more than 2,000 votes ahead of council member Rodney C. Streeter (D-district 7), to whom she lost in 2018 by 31 votes.

Despite the divisions, candidates generally agreed on relieving property taxes, promoting commercial developmen­t and tackling inequities in a county confronted with food and healthcare deserts. The next county council will be tasked with shaping redevelopm­ent around the Blue Line Corridor and guiding Prince George’s spending as pandemic-era concerns about schools and improving public safety persist.

In District 2, attorneys Wanika Fisher and Victor Ramirez were locked in a tight battle to succeed Taveras, the only Latina council member last term.

In District 4, government affairs manager and Bowie city council member Ingrid Harrison led fellow city council member Michael Estève and former District 7 chief of staff Patrice Murray. In District 6, attorney Wala Blegay and communicat­ions director Denise Smith had slight leads in a crowded, six-person race.

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