Voters in Prince George's County last night resoundingly defeated an initiative that would have altered the size of the County Council, eased the term limits they imposed on county lawmakers a dozen years ago and allowed them -- not council members -- to elect the council chairman.
With more than a majority of precincts reporting, voters rejected Question H, which would have added two at-large seats to the nine-member, district-based council and allowed a council member who is prohibited from running again for his district seat to run for one of the at-large positions.
Arthur Turner, chairman of the "Vote No on Question H" campaign, said the measure was a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent a 1992 charter change that limited the county executive and council members to two four-year terms.
"When people learned that it was to overturn term limits, they were against it," said Turner, a community activist who was joined by a majority of the council and other elected officials in opposing the measure.
The results mirrored the vote 12 years ago to change the charter, when voters overwhelmingly imposed the term restrictions.
Voters also were asked to fill a vacant council seat and elect three judges to the Circuit Court.
Much of the local political activity has centered on Question H.
Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income families and union members, pushed to change the county charter to increase the size of the council, while various civic groups and elected officials fought to keep the current nine-member, district-based council in place.
Brenda Ellis, treasurer of the ACORN chapter and the "Yes on Question H" campaign, said she was pleased that a third of the voters supported the effort.
"We came against the power structure and . . . not only a third of the voters believed what we were saying, they agreed with us," Ellis said.
In the council election, Will Campos, a Democrat, toppled Tommy S. Priestley, a Republican, in a race to fill the seat vacated by former County Council member Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood). Shapiro, who couldn't run for reelection because of term limits, resigned midway through his second term to take a position at the University of Maryland.
Campos, an aide to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), picked up his party's nomination during a special primary election in September with more than a third of the vote. Priestley, a college student, ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
The three judges running for seats in Maryland's 7th Circuit, which includes Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties, ran unopposed. They were Graydon S. McKee III, who has served on the bench for 17 years; William D. Missouri, the circuit administrative judge; and Cathy Hollenberg Serrette, who became a judge in December.
On other ballot questions, voters authorized the council to issue bonds to finance roads, libraries and other public facilities.