Early support from some of Prince George's County's biggest political names helped Will Campos, an aide to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), win the Democratic nomination for the vacant 2nd District County Council seat Tuesday night.
With all 15 of the district's precincts reporting in the special primary, Campos, Johnson's liaison for Latino affairs, received 33 percent of the vote.
Karren Jo Pope-Onwukwe, a lawyer and treasurer for the Prince George's Democratic Central Committee, was second, with 20 percent, ahead of six other candidates. They were Malinda Miles, a consultant and member of the Mount Rainier City Council; Chris Currie, a product development manager and Hyattsville council member; Anthony J. Cicoria, a former two-term Prince George's council member who went to jail in 1990 for misusing campaign funds; Amber Waller, a member of the county Democratic Central Committee; Jennifer Mitchum, a substitute teacher; and Derrick M. Posey, a teacher.
Campos will face Tommy S. Priestley, the sole Republican on the primary ballot, in November. The winner will succeed Peter A. Shapiro, who resigned this summer, midway through his second council term, to accept a position at the University of Maryland.
Campos, 32, is new to elective office, and his candidacy was buoyed by his relationship with Johnson, for whom he served as ambassador to Hispanic media, translating county announcements into Spanish and giving interviews to Hispanic news outlets.
Johnson endorsed him, as did Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), who provided organization, money and a campaign manager, his longtime consultant Julius Henson.
"It's a testament to Albert Wynn's organization," said Wayne Clarke, a lobbyist and political consultant. "You have to give him credit. He took a side . . . came out with all guns blazing."
Wynn enabled Campos to raise his profile in a race filled with civic activists and politicians who had their own lists of prominent supporters. Pope-Onwukwe's backers, for example, included Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. Wynn's financial support allowed Campos to run cable television commercials and advertisements on Spanish language and black radio. Wynn also led other lawmakers to rally behind Campos, including Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt (D-Prince George's).
"We built a team, literally an army, from Day One," Campos said as he celebrated Tuesday night at CocoCabana, a Langley Park restaurant.
Wynn, who has mentored several political beginners in Prince George's, including council Chairman Tony Knotts and Del. Justin D. Ross, said he wanted to help expand diversity on the council. Campos, he said, "had not only talent but energy."
"Everybody likes to talk about diversity," Wynn said. "But here we had a qualified candidate who happened to be from the Latino community."
By backing Campos, Wynn is developing his own support within an ethnic group that is starting to develop a presence in regional politics. Prince George's is home to about 57,000 Hispanics, or 7 percent of the county's population, according to the 2000 Census.
A large proportion live in the 2nd District, an ethnically and racially diverse collection of communities along the D.C. border, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, Langley Park and Brentwood.
In 2002, the district helped elect Salvadoran-born Victor R. Ramirez to the Maryland House of Delegates. That same year in Montgomery County, voters sent Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) to the House and Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) to the County Council.
Tuesday's returns were delayed until near midnight because the main modem receiving results from the polls malfunctioned.
Election officials reported no major problems during the day. The only known glitch was at Mount Rainier Elementary School early Tuesday morning, where machines were not pulling up the Democratic ballot. About a dozen voters were told they could write their selections on pieces of paper. Some left with plans to return, according to Linda Couch, a Mount Rainier resident.
Alisha Alexander, an official with the county Board of Elections, said technicians didn't find anything wrong with the computerized machines.