Bowie voters will go to the polls to elect a new city council on April 7 -- the first time that all posts on the council will be voted on at once.
Six of the seven imcumbent council members would have run unopposed, however, if there had not been a flurry of late entries just before the recent filing deadline.
City elections previously were held every year, with council members serving staggered two-year terms. To save the city the cost of yearly elections and to allow the whole council to be elected at the same time to concurrent two-year terms, the council agreed in 1977 to give three-year terms to those elected in that year -- Dick Logue in District 2, John Bliss Cummings in District 3 and Councilman (at large) Michael F. DiMario.
The idea was also to allow the public to view the issues facing the council and its performance as a whole: "We thought it would create greater interest, but I think it has done the exact opposite," Mayor Audrey E. Scott said. "We would have had a lot more candidates if it would have served its purpose." "
Scott also pointed out that only about 9,000 of the city's approximately 20,000 eligible voters are registered. In recent years, the average voters turnout for city council elections has been around 3,000.
"Many people don't even realize they live in a municipality. They just think they are part of Prince George's County," Scott said. "Many people not only don't know my name, but don't even know they have a mayor."
Scott, seeking her third term, is challenged by Alvin Lucchi, a former city employe. As mayor, Scott's vote carries the same weight as those of the other six council members, but she chairs meetings and work sessions.
Other candidates are Paul Champion, who will try to reverse his 1977 loss to Dick Logue -- the senior member of the council with seven years service -- and 1971-72 council member Eugene Kiley, running against DiMario, who has served for one term.
Walter Moylette has entered the race in District 1 against one-term incumbent Walter G. Planet.
Herb Sachs, who has not been opposed since he won his District 4 seat in 1974, will have no competition for a fourth term. Norman L. Cooper will automatically win a second term in District 5.
The only campaign that started early was that in District 3, where former council member and interim mayor Dick Padgett is trying to unseat John Bliss Cummings, who has served one term. Padgett served on the council from 1971 to 1975, replacing former mayor Jim Conway, who resigned in 1974 and lost the race for mayor in 1975 to William Wildman, Scott's predecessor.
"I can't remember ever that the candidates hadn't been filed for a month already and weren't out there banging out the issues," Logue said of the last-minute filings.
But the challengers said their timing was due to the expense of campaigns, the difficulty of deciding to devote large portions of their time for the small council salaries ($5,200 per year for the mayor; $2,700 for council members), an effort to size up the competition and ultimately unwillingness to allow the incumbents to run unopposed.
"It really is not an easy thing to getinvolved in," Kiley said. "You are asking citizens to volunteer to deal with the populace on substantive issues."
Each voter will cast a ballot for the mayor and for all the council positions. Districts are important only insofar as they constitute a residency requirement for the individual council member.
The ballot will also include an advisory question asking voters whether they would favor annexing Bowie Race Course into the city.