Prince George’s County has a large number of competitive races because of term limits. The County Executive and 5 of the 9 councilmembers are term limited out, creating many open and competitive seats.
These races are also critically important because of Prince George’s poor track record of development. Most of the county leaders have focused on bringing large greenfield developments, like National Harbor and Konterra, into the county, while virtually neglecting the areas around the 15 Metro stations and existing communities with transit and retail.
County Executive: Rushern Baker is hands down the best candidate. Mr. Baker has a strong reputation as a capable legislator gained from serving in the Maryland House for 8 years, 4 as the head of the Prince George’s delegation.
Mr. Baker is the only candidate who puts development around the county’s underutilized Metro stations as a top priority and leading asset for economic development. He also stresses the need to invest in the county’s inner Beltway communities.
After education, Mr. Baker puts development around Metro stations as his top priority. He says that the attention that went into National Harbor should go into development around Metro stations and inside the Beltway forgotten areas.” He also cites the need for mixed use development at Metro and inside the Beltway to include affordable housing.
Mr. Baker often talks about the County’s recent forfeiture of unspent funds that were sent back to HUD and how developers are reluctant to develop in the county due to a perception that they will be “shaken down” by politicians. He calls for leadership that sets a new standard for ethics as critical to attracting quality businesses while helping local businesses thrive. Mr. Baker is the only candidate who can begin to tap the potential of the county and its 15 Metro stations.
County Council: While 5 of 9 councilmembers are term-limited, one of the outstanding members is running for a second term: Eric Olson, representing District 3 (College Park, Riverdale, Lanham-Seabrook, New Carrollton). He has won accolades from all corners.
Mr. Olson is a champion for pedestrian and bicycle issues, and transit-oriented development. He has also been willing to take the unusual and often lonely action of voting against sprawl developments in other parts of the county. He has also advanced the use of density bonuses for affordable housing in the New Carrollton Metro station development plan.
District 2 Councilman Will Campos (Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, Langley Park) also faces nominal competition. In District 4 (Bowie, Glenn Dale, Greenbelt), incumbent Ingrid Turner is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
District 5 (Bladensburg, Bowie, Landover), incumbent Andrea Harrison won 2 years ago in a special election with the backing of popular now-state Senator David Harrington, who vacated the seat. Many have expressed disappointment with her performance.
Her opponent, Pat Thornton, a long-time county worker who is currently at the Economic Development Corporation, has garnered endorsements due to her experience and knowledge on economic development issues. We agree that Ms. Thornton is the right choice.
District 6 (District Heights, Kettering, Forestville, Mitchellville): In a crowded field, Derrick Leon Davis seems like the best choice as an experienced leader in a variety of positions protecting the public trust, and current chairman of the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund, a state-created agency which provides affordable insurance to hard-to-insure drivers.
Mr. Davis appears to understand the importance of transit-oriented development even though District 6 only has the Largo Metro station. District 6 is directly adjacent to the Morgan Boulevard and Addison Road Metro stations, but these stations lie in Districts 5 and 7 respectively. Davis is on the slate led by Rushern Baker which bodes well for his commitment to a new kind of politics.
Mark Polk, a former police officer turned attorney won the Washington Post’s endorsement, and indeed is a person of impressive personal accomplishment and community service. He also expresses an understanding of transit-oriented development but his website emphasizes the priority of attracting high-end retail to the detriment of other priorities.
District 7 (Capitol Heights, Seat Pleasant, Suitland): This race is especially important because this district contains five Metro stations — the most in the county. The field is lackluster but one candidate rises above as the right choice, former Capitol Heights Mayor Darrell Miller. Miller has promoted revitalization of this border town and focus on the Capitol Heights Metro station. Miller brings honest, hardworking constituent-oriented experience as Mayor to the job.
The candidate with the most money by far is labor-backed Karen Toles. While she lacks direct management or legislative experience (other than as a labor lobbyist), she talks about the importance of transit-oriented development and the need to leverage the opportunity of District 7’s and all Metro stations in the county. She has made building around the District’s Metro stations a priority for her campaign. Her knowledge of land use policy and local government decision-making appears to be a weakness.
District 8 (Camp Springs, Fort Washington, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills) offers a large number of candidates. The southern District along the Potomac contains National Harbor, a portion of the area inside the Beltway, but no Metro stations. Archie L. O’Neil, a retired commander in the County police who now works in human resources for County public safety programs stands out as a good choice and perhaps the only candidate to talk about the need to focus revitalization and job growth inside the Beltway.
Mr. O’Neil’s perspective as a veteran police officer in the county perhaps gives him the perspective that preventing crime calls for reinvestment in older neighborhoods rather than the construction of gated communities farther from existing urban areas. He has also talked about the importance of the County’s Metro stations as a focal point for creating Prince George’s “downtown.” He is right, and should be commended for recognizing this, even though none of the Metro stations are in District 8.
District 9 (Upper Marlboro, Cheltenham, parts of Camp Springs and Fort Washington) offers a crowded field but it is essentially a three-way race. Two of the candidates are well-qualified and would move the county forward embracing smart growth and clean government, and who is a well-financed real estate development industry favorite. We support Mel Franklin, a bright, diligent lawyer in the Maryland state’s attorney office. He has made smart growth and transit-oriented development central to his campaign. We also like Tamara Davis Brown, a talented attorney with years of civic experience.
The chief rival to Franklin and Brown is the well-funded realtor Sydney Harrison who has collected large sums from development interests. Mr. Harrison is likely to continue the sprawl tradition of term-limited Councilwoman Marilynn Bland with further expansion of development in the Rural and Developing Tiers.
State legislature: There are numerous state legislative races and we aren’t going to make endorsements in all of them. However, there’s one worth mentioning: the District 24 Senate seat (Capitol Heights, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden and Seat Pleasant).
This race deserves comment because a popular veteran Delegate Joanne Benson is challenging long-time incumbent Nathaniel Exum. The Washington Post endorsement of Ms. Benson points out that Mr. Exum’s “terrible reputation” which is “richly deserved.” Among other actions, Mr. Exum recently attempted to roll back state rules barring direct campaign contributions to Prince George’s candidates, as if developers didn’t have enough influence. Ms. Benson has been an accessible legislator and responsive to smart growth ideas. We recommend that District 24 voters choose Joanne Benson and retire Nathaniel Exum.