House of Delegates chamber in Annapolis stock photo from Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.

Maryland’s June 26 primary and November general election will select all members of the state Senate and House of Delegates. We asked all of the candidates for any state legislative districts in Montgomery and Prince George's counties to respond to our questionnaire. Combined with other information we could find, we have selected these urbanist champions to recommend for your vote in Prince George's County.

  • District 21: Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Mary Lehman, and Matt Dernoga for delegate
  • District 22: Nicole Williams and Ashanti Martinez for delegate
  • District 24: Erek Barron and Jazz Lewis for delegate
  • District 26: Sade Oshinubi for delegate
  • District 47: Malcolm Augustine for senator
  • District 47A: Diana Fennell and Jimmy Tarlau for delegate
  • District 47B: Carlo Sanchez for delegate

Prince George’s County is rapidly changing, but despite electing nearly one-sixth of the General Assembly, the state’s transportation investments in the county seem strangely rooted in the past. Even as car ownership falls, the State Highway Administration resists pedestrian safety improvements. And even as Governor Hogan seeks to fast-track his proposal to add toll lanes to the Beltway, transit alternatives like Southern Maryland Mass Transit and all-day MARC Camden Line service for the urbanizing Route 1 corridor seem stuck in the slow lane.

Meanwhile, new transportation investments like the Purple Line promise to boost mobility for county residents to reach job centers in Montgomery County and the University of Maryland at College Park. It’s important to ensure that the effects of this and other investments benefit people of all incomes and keep the county inclusive.

We only are making endorsements where one or more candidates showed clear understanding of and commitment to the issues we care about. We did not receive responses that reached this bar in the District 23, 25 or 27 delegate races, any senate race other than 47, nor in any non-Democratic primaries. You can read all questionnaire responses here.

Map of Prince George’s legislative districts by State of Maryland.

District 21 (College Park, Laurel)

District 21 runs from College Park and Adelphi all the way up Route 1 to Laurel and then east to Odenton in Anne Arundel County. Even as the district eagerly anticipates the arrival of five stations on Maryland’s newest passenger rail line, the Purple Line, its oldest, the Camden Line, remains a rounding error in the district’s transportation mix with just 4-7 rush hour trains in each direction providing too little service to bring a renaissance to Laurel or Beltsville.

Our introductory post discussed the drama of environmental activist Matt Dernoga jockeying for a single open seat with his former boss and family friend, council member Mary Lehman for the seat vacated by Delegate Barbara Frush. After reviewing their questionnaires, it’s clear that we can’t pick just one.

Dernoga talks about forging a “Route 1 Coalition” to advocate for improved transportation, public safety, and sustainable development in the corridor, noting that he is “strongly opposed to the expansion of highways” and would seek “expanded and improved MARC service, and improved bus service to Laurel, Beltsville, Odenton, and Gambrills.” He also talks of seeking state support for the county’s Housing Investment Trust Fund and partnering with county leaders to create an inclusionary zoning program.

Lehman is even bolder, saying “we should not be doing anything that further encourages single occupancy vehicle use…If we are going to reduce and reverse climate change, we must change our transportation plans to expand bus rapid transit, commuter rail and traditional bus service with better connectivity, late night and weekend service.” Referencing her work to support bike and pedestrian safety on county roads, she argues the State Highway Administration (SHA) should follow the county’s lead, “designing complete streets around transit hubs with narrower travel lanes for cars, traffic calming devices like chokers and landscaping and other features that force motorists to slow down and give pedestrians a chance to make safe crossings. This would have to be a legislative mandate as SHA will not do this of its own accord.”

Among the two incumbents seeking re-election, Ben Barnes has a decent record and submitted an adequate questionnaire response, but Joseline Peña-Melnyk is the superior choice. She deserves credit for sponsoring a bill that directed SHA to evaluate safe pedestrian and cycling road improvements. She also says, “I opposed the Inter-County Connector and I believe we should not try to build our way out of congestion with large new highway projects. Targeted road improvements (e.g., intersection upgrades), mass transit expansion, and focusing growth where it does not produce sprawl are better policies.”

In a nod to solidarity not uncommon in Maryland state legislative races, the incumbents of the District 21 team, Peña-Melnyk and Barnes, are campaigning with incumbent state senator Jim Rosapepe as a slate. However, voters are not required to vote for candidates in bundles.

Greater Greater Washington endorses Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Matt Dernoga, and Mary Lehman for the Democratic nomination for delegate in District 21.

District 22: Hyattsville, New Carrollton, Greenbelt

From the railroad and streetcar towns of Hyattsville, Riverdale, and Berwyn Heights to the New Deal-era model suburb of Greenbelt, District 22 has long been a laboratory of suburban development. Now it’s again transforming as immigrants arrive from Latin America and new townhouse developments attract families priced out of DC. The Purple Line’s arrival may well accelerate these changes, as could expanded MARC service.

All three incumbent delegates are seeking re-election, but Greater Greater Washington hopes that readers will make room for real estate attorney Nicole Williams and Howard University student Ashanti Martinez.

As president of Greenbelt’s Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club, Williams returned sophisticated responses on transportation and housing issues that made her the clear favorite on our reader rating tool. Her critique of Governor Hogan’s “disastrous and ill-advised” widening proposal, for example, goes beyond discussing unrealistic financing and induced demand to discuss environmental impacts and the loss of much-needed housing in adjacent neighborhoods.

She calls on her experience as a member of the City of Greenbelt Planning Advisory Board in noting that the State Highway Administration “favors a 1950's model of encouraging fast car movement as much as possible to the detriment of pedestrians and those who wish to bicycle or rely on public transportation.”

To address affordability concerns along the Purple Line route, she proposes adding legislative teeth to the “Pathways to Opportunity” community agreement recently signed by Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Ike Legget and University of Maryland President Wallace Loh.

Greater Greater Washington readers also gave high ratings to a second challenger, 22-year-old Howard University student Ashanti Martinez, a new face in Maryland politics who argues we need infrastructure that better protects pedestrians and cyclists, saying, "Too many of our communities aren't designed for biking and keeping pedestrians safe. SHA must change this.”

We were also heartened to see that, unlike Delegate Anne Healey, the only incumbent to respond, he opposes Governor Hogan’s highway-widening plans: “The governor estimates these projects at under $1 0billion, while some experts are predicting this price tag will be closer to $30 billion. These lanes…may do little to actually relieve traffic congestion. Providing safe and efficient alternative transportation methods, like the expansion of MARC, are much better investments.”

Among the three incumbents seeking re-election, neither Delegate Tawanna Gaines nor Delegate Alonzo Washington returned our questionnaire by the deadline, although several contributors commented favorably on Washington’s commitment to smart growth principles in office.

We appreciate Delegate Healey’s support for adding sidewalks and bike lanes and a commitment to “prioritize expansion of mass transit options that allow for transit-oriented development to flourish,” but we didn’t see the depth on these issues that we would expect from an incumbent of twenty-eight years and are concerned about her apparent support for widening highways, especially a statement that widening the BW Parkway with no tolling is preferable to using tolls.

Greater Greater Washington supports Nicole Williams and Ashanti Martinez in the Democratic primary in District 22.

District 24: Capitol Heights, Largo, Glen Dale

The 24th District follows Metro’s Blue Line from struggling communities along Southern Avenue to more affluent suburbs outside the beltway. These are among Metro’s lowest ridership stations and have attracted little in the way of transit oriented development, but that’s starting to change in Largo where a new sector plan envisions one of the county’s “premiere mixed-use downtowns” and perhaps its future county seat.

Delegate Erek Barron was instrumental in this year’s historic victory on metro funding as co-sponsor of the Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act (HB 372). His legislation established, for the first time, a dedicated, permanent allocation to Metro of $167 million per year from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund. As co-chair of the General Assembly’s WMATA-Metro Work Group he has thought deeply about many aspects of Metro governance, even writing on this site.

Appointed to fill the seat of Del. Michael Vaughn in January 2017, Delegate Jazz Lewis clearly sees the opportunity of the district’s four metro stations to attract “mixed income housing opportunities so that we begin to break up the concentration of poverty in certain areas,” providing “healthy food access, high quality retail, as well as high-paying jobs.” He also sees opportunity for the State Highway Administration, which, “through supporting walking, biking and transit can also help us redevelop blighted areas in the inner beltway.”

The retirement of Delegate Carolyn Howard has attracted a field of nine challengers, but only Andrea Fletcher and Donjuan “DJ” Williams returned our questionnaire. Between these, the response from DJ Williams rated most highly with readers, but we’re concerned that his stated opposition to widening roadways is directly contradicted by his website, which says, “I would support the widening of the B/W Pkwy.”

Greater Greater Washington endorses incumbents Erek Barron and Jazz Lewis for renomination in District 24.

District 26: Oxon Hill, Camp Springs, Fort Washington

The 26th District stretches from Hillcrest Heights on the District border down Indian Head Highway to Accokeek. Despite many dense apartment complexes and the growing urban center at National Harbor, the district is poorly served by transit and pedestrian fatalities are increasingly common. Eight Democrats are vying for the district’s three open seats, only two of whom returned our questionnaire.

Government affairs professional Sade Oshinubi was the only candidate to express enthusiasm for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit (SMRT) project connecting Waldorf to Branch Avenue Metro in Camp Springs. She sees it as an opportunity to jump start pending projects that will foster employment and economic growth.

She notes that, “Creating walkable communities incentivizes development and improves the health and welfare of our citizens.” On bike and pedestrian safety, she argues for expanded bike lanes and discusses her experience “working with members of a senior community located right off of state Hwy 210 who cannot even get across the street before the walk light changes.”

Greater Greater Washington recommends Democratic voters nominate Sade Oshinubi for in District 26.

District 47: Landover, Mount Rainier, Langley Park

In many Maryland districts, voters can select one senator and three delegates. Some districts are split into two (or occasionally three) sub-districts for delegates, where voters in a smaller district just select one or two delegates. District 47 has two sub-districts, 47A and 47B.

Urbanist issues are front and center in subdistrict 47A, stretching from unincorporated Chillum along the Montgomery County and DC borders to Landover in the east. The heart of the district is older residential neighborhoods, the streetcar suburbs along Route 1, and the Port Towns along the Anacostia River. These densely developed communities have struggled for decades with the loss of the streetcar and the suburbanization and disinvestment of the 1970s and 1980s.

Both Jimmy Tarlau and Diana Fennell cut their teeth in municipal government, the former serving two terms on the Mount Rainier City Council and the latter serving on Colmar Manor’s council before spending a decade as mayor. Both are wrapping up their first terms in the General Assembly and both deserve your support.

A lifelong labor organizer who focuses on fair taxation in the legislature, Tarlau is a strong supporter of investing in transit and reinvesting in our older communities. An important urbanist accomplishment actually carried over from his time on the city council: working with DC to get a much needed traffic light on Eastern Ave at Randolph Rd / Bunker Hill Rd that slowed traffic, enabled safe pedestrian and bicycle crossings, and improved service on the G8 bus line.

Fennell also has a strong record of accomplishment in her first term, supporting Metro funding, the fracking ban, and restoring highway user funds to municipalities - a multi-year effort to claw back state transportation funds for use by municipalities for local projects.

Subdistrict 47B was created in part to give stronger representation to the large Latinx community in unincorporated Langley Park and Lewisdale. Carlo Sanchez was appointed to represent the district after the resignation of Will Campos, and by all accounts has done well by his constituents.

A strong supporter of the Purple Line, which will pass through the heart of his district, Sanchez has been vocal about taking advantage of the opportunities presented to add affordable housing and revitalize commercial areas while protecting current businesses and residents. As a member of the Judiciary Committee he has focused on issues impacting his immigrant constituents, but has also supported the Metro funding and Complete Streets legislation passed in 2018.

Malcolm Augustine is running for the open Senate seat in district 47 (covering 47A and 47B) that was vacated when Victor Ramirez opted to run for Prince George’s State’s Attorney. A community activist from Cheverly, after coming up short in a run for Delegate in 2014 Augustine was appointed by Rushern Baker as an alternate to the WMATA Board of Directors.

He testified in front of the General Assembly in favor Maryland paying its full share of WMATA dedicated funding and is a strong supporter of investing in mass transit instead of highway expansion, and also believes Maryland needs to make policy reforms to make streets safer.

Augustine is also engaged in equity issues surrounding the Purple Line development in district 47, and advocates for tax relief and other policy measures that can protect current residents while encouraging new investments spurred by the increased transit access. Malcolm Augustine’s experience with WMATA would be a unique asset in the Maryland Senate and he deserves your support in the primary.

Greater Greater Washington endorses Malcolm Augustine for senate, Jimmy Tarlau and Diana Fennell for subdistrict 47A delegate, and Carlo Sanchez for subdistrict 47B delegate in the Democratic primary.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. All endorsements are decided by our volunteer Elections Committee with input from our board and other volunteer committees. Want to keep up on other endorsement posts? Check out our 2018 primary summary page and sign up for our weekly elections newsletter.