A charter change will shrink the size of the Prince George's County Council this fall from 11 members to nine, all to be elected from districts -- a change that, along with redistricting, assures that about half the council to be nominated next Tuesday will be new faces.
Many of the campaigns have become personality contests, even though there are plenty of issues out there. The county lost 14 percent of its federal funding this year, for example, fiscal problems forced the layoff of 500 teachers, and county activists have begun to debate the merits of the charter-mandated limit on property tax revenue known as TRIM.
Also, controversial zoning decisions past and pending have focused attention on the relationship between business and development interests in Prince George's County and the incumbent Democratic political structure. Development interests, with their eyes on the 66 percent of county land still undeveloped, have united for the first time into a political action arm of the Chamber of Commerce known as Biz-Pac and have contributed money to some campaigns. Recipients have been dubbed the "All-Zoning Team" by Del. Tim Maloney..
Here is a look at the contests in Districts 1 through 5 (Districts 6 through 9 will be examined tomorrow):
District 1--Laurel residents John E. Ritchie and Charles Whitlock are seeking the Republican nomination in this predominantly white, middle-class district. The winner will oppose two-term incumbent Democrat Frank P. Casula, the only incumbent who does not have a primary opponent.
Ritchie, 38, who owns a construction equipment firm, says, "I'm running against Frank Casula because I don't feel he has the knowledge or the experience to deal with the major issues of the 1980s." Ritchie, who won the endorsement of Biz-Pac, would create a task force to find jobs for county residents, giving preference to laid off federal employes.
Whitlock could not be reached for an interview.
District 2 -- Democrats Anthony Cicoria, a state delegate whose district was eliminated by reapportionment, and Hyattsville Mayor Tom Bass are squared off in this compact district that includes the aging "trolley car" towns of Mount Rainier, Cottage City, Colmar Manor, Brentwood and North Brentwood, plus Hyattsville, Takoma Park, Chillum and Lewisdale.
Bass, 38, with strong backing from county executive candidate Paris Glendening, Biz-Pac and other development interests, has raised nearly $12,000 compared with Cicoria's $7,669. Cicoria, 39, is counting on a strong following among senior citizens and attention to constituent needs in a district where 15 percent of the voting age residents are over 65 years old.
Bass, a telephone equipment installer, supports the "Plus 4" modification of TRIM, which Cicoria opposes. The winner will face Republican W. Michael Zane, 32, in the Nov. 2 general election.
District 3 -- Six contenders, each representing a different community -- and with no incumbent -- make this the most crowded council race. Strong municipal identity and a passion for local politics characterize many of the residents of the 3rd District, which includes New Carrollton and College Park, and the smaller communities of Riverdale, Berwyn Heights, Landover Hills and a part of Lanham.
Thomas Hendershot, 38, a New Carrollton attorney who served on the county's redistricting commission, has raised the most money ($25,000). Hendershot, once an aide to former congressman William Green (D-Pa.) touts his experience in national political organizing and as an international lawyer. He is the author of the redistricting plan used by the County Council, and has been criticized by opponents for allegedly drawing a district uninhabited by an incumbent to aid his own candidacy. Hendershot defends his plan as one of the few apportionment plans throughout the country to escape court challenge.
James Herl, a 29-year-old Burt Reynolds look-alike, served as an aide to Councilman Casula. Because of that experience, Herl says he will not need "on-the-job training."
V. Charles Donnelly, 39, is a high school teacher turned lawyer who, like Herl, lives in College Park. He says no one knows more about a community than a teacher.
Hendershot, Herl and Donnelly support modification of TRIM. All have divided the important endorsements. Herl is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, Hendershot by the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, and Donnelly by Prince George's Educators' Association.
Riverdale Mayor Guy Tiberio, 54, and flooring contractor James A. Green, 52, of College Park Woods, are considered more conservative than the others. Neither, for example, favors a current proposal to modify the TRIM amendment. But both have lagged so far behind in fund-raising.
The victor will face Republican Joseph Drewer in the general election.
District 4 -- Four well-known Democrats are squaring off in a middle-class district that encompasses the politically powerful municipalities of Bowie and Greenbelt, and the smaller communities of Lanham and Seabrook.
Incumbent Roy Dabney, 40, is facing aggressive challenges from well-known, 13-year school board member Al James Golato, former Bowie mayor William Wildman and Greenbelt mayor Richard Castaldi.
The quiet Dabney, a bank officer, was appointed in 1980 to fill a vacancy. Dabney has received endorsements from both Biz-Pac and labor, and from the Fraternal Order of Police, but a big question is how Dabney, the only black in the primary, will fare in a district that is 85 percent white. "This is the first time in the city of Bowie that a black has tried to do anything," Dabney said, "so I can't go back and look at voter trends."
Golato, 57, has been endorsed by the County Educators' Association.
Wildman, a 60-year-old native of Bowie, where he spent 12 years on the City Council and served one term as mayor before a 1974 defeat, has raised the least money.
All this helps Castaldi, 37, who is counting on a big vote in Greenbelt and a three-way split in the larger city of Bowie.
Kenneth D. Powell is uncontested for the Republican nomination.
District 5 -- This district, 70 percent black, reportedly was drawn to assure the reelection of Councilman Floyd Wilson, who has the backing of the county's leading Democratic politicians, as well as the business community and Biz-Pac. It includes the municipalities of Cheverly, Bladensburg, Fairmount Heights and Glenarden as well as Rogers Heights and parts of Landover and Lanham. Revitalization of some decaying housing and commercial areas close to the District of Columbia will be a key issue in an area that has two Metro stops but little in the way of new development.
Of Wilson's four challengers, Cora Rice, 56, is the best known. A past president of the county NAACP, she has been active in black community affairs more than 20 years, and has been critical of Wilson and other black elected officials as chosen by "bosses" from outside the community.
The other three candidates stress that county development has overlooked the district, particularly affordable low- to moderate-income housing. Wanda Brown, 30, an aide in county government, drew 9,000 votes as an independent Democrat in the 1978 council primary; Gregory Martin, 32, is a Lanham management consultant, and Ramon E. McGill, 59, runs a nursery school in Landover. Martin and McGill oppose modification of the TRIM charter amendment to increase property tax revenues. Brown supports a move to lift the TRIM limit. There are no Republican candidates for this district.