Mount Rainier reelected its longtime mayor Monday after a heated election campaign that centered on themes of gentrification, immigration and economic development.
Malinda Miles, who has been mayor since 2005 and first won a seat on the city council in 1987, emerged with 70 more votes than Jesse Christopherson, an eight-year resident who has served on the council since 2013, out of more than 900 ballots cast.
Turnout was about double what is typical for Mount Rainier, a former streetcar suburb on the edge of Washington where residents have shifted from majority African American to increasingly white and Hispanic.
Political newcomers Celina Benitez and Luke Chesek easily beat longtime residents Charnette Robinson and Tyrese Robinson to win two open seats on the five-person council, according to preliminary results.
Mount Rainier’s was perhaps the highest-profile contest of about a dozen elections in cities and towns in Prince George’s County on Monday. Voters chose between incumbents, newcomers and some returning figures at a time when many of their communities — especially those near the D.C. border — are experiencing economic and demographic change.
The election in Glenarden, in central Prince George’s County, was marred by controversy after three council members were censured over allegations that they used city money to promote a petition campaign. The council retained an attorney and has requested an investigation by the state prosecutor.
All three of the council members — Carolyn Smallwood, James Herring and Deborah Eason — retained their seats Monday, according to early returns.
The town of Brentwood reelected Rocio Treminio-Lopez, who was the first Latina to win a mayoral seat in the county, and also elected all the members of her ticket.
Brentwood plans to introduce a noncitizen voting and sanctuary-city ordinance in the next few weeks, mirroring nearby Hyattsville. Treminio-Lopez and her slate say they will back both initiatives.
In Cheverly, voters chose Julian Ivey, the son of former Prince George’s state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey and former delegate Jolene Ivey, to fill a town council seat. It was the first run for political office for Julian Ivey, a junior at the University of Maryland who served as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
In Fairmount Heights, a historically African American city where Booker T. Washington’s daughter and son-in-law once lived, Mayor Patricia Waiters lost to former mayor Lillie Thompson Martin. Two council candidates who ran on Martin’s slate also were elected.
In Mount Rainier, the mayoral and council campaigns focused on how to promote development without displacing longtime residents in a city experiencing an influx of higher-income households.
Candidates also were divided about a recent decision to allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections.
Miles noted the larger-than-usual turnout in the city of 8,500, and said the message she received from voters was: “When this election is over, we expect you to work toward healing our city.”
“We’ve got to find a way to become more inclusive of the new people moving into Mount Rainier who have a different view of community, but they’ve also got to appreciate what we’ve already put together,” she added. “We’ve got to find a balance to make this the best place on Earth.”