IT’S BEEN about 25 years since a sitting member of the Prince George’s County Council sought reelection and lost; the last time it happened, an incumbent was convicted on corruption charges just before Election Day and ended up backing his write-in opponent. Had the county been governed wisely and well, the iron grip exercised by incumbents might not have been such a bad thing. However, given the mixed history of governance in the county, it’s been less than ideal.
The current all-Democratic council, whose nine members are limited to two terms, is an improvement over some in recent memory. Still, it could benefit from some fresh blood — which, thanks to term limits, it will have this year. Prince George’s, though its image is improving under the capable leadership of County Executive Rushern L. Baker, still suffers from the reputational damage incurred by his predecessor, Jack B. Johnson, who left office in 2010. (Mr. Johnson is serving a federal prison sentence for taking bribes and concealing evidence.)
More than anything, the county needs an infusion of committed, policy-oriented council members with the skills and drive to deliver on the perennial promises made by candidates for public office to attract high-quality development, employers and jobs that provide the tax dollars to improve the struggling local schools.
Fortunately, there are a number of such candidates on the Democratic primary ballot this June 24. (In Prince George’s, where registered voters are overwhelmingly Democrats, winners of the primary have a lock in the general election, where they are frequently unopposed.) A strong candidate is running in each of the three districts where a term-limited incumbent is departing.
The following candidates, identified in bold, are The Post’s choices in contested Democratic primaries for the Prince George’s County Council. (There are no contested Republican primaries.)
To find your district, go to https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch
DISTRICT 2: Two viable candidates with impressive but different backgrounds and strengths are vying for the open seat in this hardscrabble, inside-the-Beltway district. The better of them is Doyle Niemann, a veteran prosecutor who has served for the last 12 years as a state lawmaker in the House of Delegates.
Mr. Niemann may lack the common touch; he can come off as pedantic, and street-level politics is not his strong suit. But he is widely respected for his command of an array of state and local issues. His expertise on foreclosure, insurance, white-collar crime and a host of other subjects would make him a force on the County Council. So would his formidable experience as a prosecutor. Too many candidates enter the County Council facing a steep learning curve; Mr. Niemann would not.
By contrast, his opponent, Deni Taveras, would be starting more or less at square one. Ms. Taveras has had a varied and notable career: she has worked in international development in Asia and Latin America, handled emergency planning and environmental matters for the federal government and helped with the recovery in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She is bright and independent-minded. Still, she would be a newcomer to most local issues and it’s hard to see how she could match Mr. Niemann’s effectiveness.
DISTRICT 3: There’s no real competition here. Dannielle Glaros, who has been a top aide to the term-limited incumbent, Eric Olson, is a shoe-in to succeed him; her two opponents have not mounted serious campaigns.
Ms. Glaros has broad experience in planning, transportation and environmental policy, including a stint working for former Maryland governor Parris Glendening. As a council staffer, she has impressed many colleagues with her work ethic and attention to detail. She could be a leader on land-use issues, which is at the heart of what the council does.
DISTRICT 4: Both Todd M. Turner, a lawyer on the County Council staff, and Vince Canales, former head of the union representing county police officers, are plausible candidates. Each might make a fine member, but Mr. Turner strikes us as the better choice.
Intelligent, measured and attuned to the nuts and bolts of serving a highly diverse district, Mr. Turner is a city council member in Bowie; he was in charge of constituent services for a previous incumbent in this council seat, Doug Peters (who is now a state senator). Mr. Canales is a bigger personality, and he has a working knowledge of the county’s finances from his days as a negotiator squaring off against county officials over police contracts. But Mr. Turner would be a work horse who could contribute more to the council.
DISTRICT 6: The incumbent, Derrick Leon Davis — long-winded, irrepressible and tireless — has been an advocate for some of the county’s biggest and most important development projects, which are in this district. They include the plan to revitalize the Largo town center into what would be a commercially vibrant downtown for the county and the adjacent project to build a major new regional medical center. Mr. Davis has grown in the job and impressed his colleagues with his energy in pushing an ambitious agenda that would make the county more attractive to top-drawer employers.
His main opponent, former state lawmaker Gerron S. Levi, is a lawyer admired for her smarts, her broad understanding of government and her expertise in building and sustaining sound and sustainable housing and communities. But she has not offered a compelling case to unseat Mr. Davis.
DISTRICT 7: Karen Toles is the incumbent in this district bordering the nation’s capital, which struggles with crime and other social ills. Ms. Toles has made some positive contributions on the council, such as tightening regulations on crime-prone nightclubs and establishing a system by which police can monitor people convicted of gun crimes. Unfortunately, Ms. Toles — thin-skinned, erratic and prone to ostentatious public posturing — has been her own worst enemy. She did herself no favors by mouthing off to a police officer who pulled her over for exceeding 100 mph on the Beltway two years ago — then posing as the victim.
Given the powers of incumbency on the council, unseating her will be an uphill struggle. Nonetheless, a better choice would be Kito James, the mayor of Capitol Heights. An even-keeled former government contractor, Mr. James would make a more effective advocate for a district badly in need of government resources in its quest for self-improvement.