Six Area Cities Choosing New Leaders

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Voters in six Maryland cities in the Washington area go to the polls today to elect council members and mayors.

The nonpartisan elections range in intensity from Gaithersburg, where the campaign has been dominated by an emotional debate over immigration, to Takoma Park, where, despite the city's reputation for political activism, candidates for mayor and five of six council seats are unopposed.

Polls open at 7 a.m., and voting will continue until 8 p.m., except in College Park, where the polls are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In Gaithersburg, seven candidates are competing for three at-large seats on the five-member council, in the most wide-open council race in years. Three candidates have been endorsed by the One Gaithersburg coalition, which has received support from unions and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

The group contends that the council should better represent the city's diversity and focus more attention on affordable housing. Coalition members also expressed concern about the tone of a bruising three-year-long debate over where to site a day-laborer center that would draw many immigrants.

Other council candidates have received the backing of longtime Mayor Sidney A. Katz, who is not up for reelection.

In Bowie, the largest city in Prince George's County, more money has been raised than ever before in a mayoral race, as incumbent G. Frederick Robinson and City Council member D. Michael Lyles compete in a spirited campaign. As of mid-October, Lyles had raised more than twice as much as Robinson, but many of his donors did not live within the city limits.

Lyles says Robinson has not been aggressive enough in promoting economic development. Robinson says most residents think the city is headed in the right direction and should continue on its current path.

All six seats on the Bowie City Council are also up for election. There are contested races for each of four district seats, and three people are running for two at-large seats. In two district races, the incumbent is running.

Rockville voters have been through a campaign that many residents consider one of the most divisive in recent memory, focused in part on the frequency of trash collections. Council member Susan Hoffmann and local activists Mark Pierzchala and Drew Powell are running to replace outgoing Mayor Larry Giammo.

Eleven candidates are running for four at-large seats on the Rockville City Council. They include the music director of the National Philharmonic and a former candidate for mayor. Giammo, a three-term mayor who chose not to seek reelection, caused a stir by urging voters to turn out three incumbent council members.

Giammo and Hoffmann favored a plan to save the city money by cutting trash collections from twice a week to once a week. Other council members pushed for a public hearing on the matter and then voted to retain twice-a-week service. Candidates have also debated development, traffic and budgetary issues.

In Greenbelt, seven candidates are competing for five at-large slots on the City Council. The council selects the mayor and mayor pro tem, positions that traditionally have gone to the top two vote-getters. All five current council members are running for reelection.

College Park Mayor Stephen A. Brayman and four council members, representing two city districts, are running unopposed for reelection. Races for two other city districts are contested in campaigns that have focused on the redevelopment of the Route 1 corridor and the relationship between the city and the University of Maryland.

Staff writers Hamil R. Harris, Steve Hendrix, Ann E. Marimow and Michael Tunison contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company