Voters in Gaithersburg, Rockville and Takoma Park largely embraced the status quo yesterday, returning three incumbent mayors and several council members to office.
But voters in two of the Montgomery County municipalities made history: Rockville elected three women to its four-member City Council for the first time since an election for commissioners in 1860. With half the precincts reporting, a majority of Takoma Park's electorate resoundingly endorsed a first-in-the-state balloting system that allows voters to rank their choices to determine a majority winner in cases where there are more than two candidates.
In Gaithersburg, newcomer Michael A. Sesma, the leading vote-getter in a race for two council seats, was the only challenger to push an incumbent from office. He had campaigned on the need to match development with infrastructure. Voters just barely returned Gaithersburg council member Henry F. Marraffa Jr. to office and handily reelected Mayor Sidney A. Katz, who ran unopposed.
Rockville voters overwhelmingly reelected two-term incumbent Larry Giammo, who last week fulfilled a campaign promise to pass an "adequate public facilities ordinance" that allows the city to reject development projects if schools, roads and other services are overburdened. "People in Rockville are looking for a better balance in terms of managing growth and keeping it aligned with infrastructure," he said last night.
The contest in Rockville pitted Giammo, a self-employed business management consultant who has pushed successfully for the redevelopment of the city's downtown, against Brigitta Mullican, a retired federal budget analyst who promised fiscal responsibility and a more restrained approach to Rockville's future.
For the City Council, Rockville voters returned to office six-term incumbent Bob Dorsey, two-term incumbent Susan R. Hoffman and Anne M. Robbins, who was first elected to the council in 1999. The voters also chose Phyllis Marcuccio, who called for tax relief and promised to promote the concerns of the city's neighborhoods, turning away challengers Harry Thomas and Joy E. Young.
Voters in Takoma Park reelected four-term incumbent Kathy Porter, who faced a challenge from Seth Grimes, a self-employed computer analyst who said the city police were understaffed, the municipal finances were sloppy, and the city's environmental goals have gone unmet. In a race that seemed to be a referendum on her tenure, Porter touted progress toward a new community center and said she had the contacts and experience to get things done.
Takoma Park voters reelected unopposed council members Joy Austin-Lane of Ward 1, Bruce R. Williams of Ward 3, Terry Seamens of Ward 4, Marc Elrich of Ward 5 and Doug Barry of Ward 6.
Newcomer Colleen Clay won the Ward 2 seat vacated by Heather R. Mizeur. Clay, an affordable housing and civil rights specialist for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, bested Eileen Sobeck, an environmental attorney with the Department of Justice.
A ballot question in Takoma Park asked voters to decide whether the city should implement "instant runoff" elections, in which voters would be able to rank their selections, allowing for an immediate recount to determine the most popular candidate if none wins a majority in the first tally.
Takoma Park voters cast their ballots on paper yesterday, the result of a campaign by TrueVoteMD, a nonprofit group concerned about the reliability of electronic voting machines. "It really inspired confidence," said TrueVoteMD activist Linda Schade, who watched the counting of paper ballots. "It wasn't in the black box."
Rockville and Gaithersburg voters used electronic voting machines for the second time yesterday and officials said the devices worked flawlessly.
In Gaithersburg, Sesma unseated council incumbent Blanche H. Keller.
Sesma disparaged the city's approval of a plan for the Casey West mixed-use development, claiming that the city does not have the schools and roads to support such growth.
Marraffa said the development would be built in phases so that some of the infrastructure could be built concurrently, and he touted his ability to work with school and state officials. Keller, appointed to the council last year to fill a vacancy, said public safety and affordable housing were her priorities. She came in third in the balloting, followed by Jud B. Ashman.