A former member of the Prince George’s County Council is looking to reenter elected office, this time across the District line.
Peter A. Shapiro, 48, said today he will run for an at-large D.C. Council seat as a Democrat. Should he get on the ballot, Shapiro would likely face incumbent Vincent Orange and former Council member Sekou Biddle in the April 3 primary.
"I have something I feel like I can give back to the city I grew up in,” said Shapiro, who grew up in Chevy Chase, attending public and private schools in the city.
Shapiro served on the Prince George’s County Council from 1998 until 2004, when he resigned to accept a job with the University of Maryland. From 2002 until a few months before his resignation, he served as council chairman, a position voted on by his council peers. Shapiro represented the District 2 seat, encompassing Brentwood, Hyattsville and Mount Rainier.
He moved back to Chevy Chase in 2009 and now heads the nonprofit Chesapeake Center for Public Leadership. According to voting records, Shapiro voted in last year’s primary and general elections, but not in the April special election in which Orange beat Biddle.
Shapiro came to the Prince George’s council after serving as a town councilman in Brentwood and working as an organizer for groups including Clean Water Action and the National Rainbow Coalition. As a council member, Shapiro was central to establishing a “Gateway Arts District” along two miles of the Route 1/Rhode Island Avenue corridor east of the District line.
Some other snapshots from his record: In 2000, he supported having voters revisit a 1992 vote establishing term limits for county officials; they opted to keep the term limits. He led the council’s ultimately unsuccessful opposition to the Intercounty Connector project and supported bills to establish a needle exchange program and to outlaw landlords from dumping evicted tenants’ belongings on public streets. County budgets he supported as chairman included a new telephone tax to fund education and a small property tax hike to fund parks and planning. Shapiro was sometimes criticized by observers and colleagues for being too willing to cooperate with then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson. When Shapiro announced his resignation in 2004, lobbyist Wayne Clarke told the Post that Shapiro “evolved from a populist who wanted to change the system into a great compromiser. ... And I think he got stuck in the position as the great compromiser.”
Shapiro has remained active in county affairs since moving to the District. Earlier this year, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III appointed him to the Accountability, Compliance and Integrity Advisory Board that Baker established in the wake of Johnson’s arrest on federal corruption charges.
His ties to District politics are less well established. Shapiro has served on several regional boards and commissions, but when asked about his civic involvement since moving back to the District, he didn’t come up with much.
“This is my opportunity to dive in and give back,” he said, acknowledging his opponents will likely make an issue of his inexperience in city politics. Former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, “you could give the same rap,” he said. “I’m sure there were folks who called Mayor Williams a carpetbagger. But people look back and say some great things took place under his leadership.”
Like Biddle and Orange, Shapiro said he intends to make ethics and good government a centerpiece of his campaign, along with jobs and education. “It feels like a broken political culture,” he said.
Shapiro intends to officially declare his candidacy and pick up ballot petitions tomorrow.