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Montgomery primary: Gaithersburg lawmaker, former Raskin aide join council race

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More candidates have entered races for the 2022 Democratic primary election in Montgomery County, including a Gaithersburg City Council member and the former legislative director for Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), both of whom are seeking seats on the Montgomery County Council.

Laurie-Anne Sayles, 39, announced her campaign Tuesday for an at-large position on the Montgomery County Council. Born and raised in Prince George’s County, she attended the University of Maryland and served as president of Montgomery’s African American Democratic Club before becoming the first Black person elected to the Gaithersburg City Council in 2017.

“All these experiences will bode well for the County Council,” Sayles said in an interview before her announcement. “I want to make sure that we have trusted, tested and experienced leaders in these roles.”

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William Roberts, managing director for the D.C.-based think tank Center for American Progress, said he plans to run to replace outgoing council member Craig Rice (D-District 2).

Originally from Philadelphia, Roberts, 35, attended Howard University School of Law before joining Raskin’s office, where he worked as legislative director from 2017 to 2019. He sits on the board of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance and chairs the Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board.

“We’re the fastest-growing, most diverse part of the county,” Roberts said about District 2, which includes Clarksburg, Germantown and Damascus. “So many of the issues I’ve been working on for years, I see them play out acutely in my own community.”

Both Sayles and Roberts, who has not yet formally kicked off his campaign, say they plan to use public financing.

In deep-blue Montgomery, the results of the Democratic primary often determines the winner of the general election. As of Tuesday, no independents or Republicans had filed to run for the County Council in 2022.

Because of term limits and a ballot initiative, there are at least five seats on the council that are opening up.

Three of the four incumbent at-large council members are running for reelection; the last, Hans Riemer (D), is term-limited and running for county executive.

There are also four challengers who have formally joined the at-large race: activist Brandy H.M. Brooks, who ran in 2018, and newcomers Kristin Mink, Kim Kellerman and Christa Tichy.

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Some downballot races are also heating up.

Bernice Mireku-North, a criminal defense attorney, announced last week that she will challenge incumbent John McCarthy in the Democratic primary for state’s attorney next June.

Mireku-North, 39, co-chaired the county’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, which made 87 recommendations to elected officials four months ago, including reducing the law enforcement presence in certain neighborhoods and requiring incident reports every time officers draw their weapons. Her campaign for state’s attorney, she said, will emphasize a “commitment to transformative policies on day one.”

McCarthy, 69, worked as a public defender before joining the state’s attorney office in 1982. He was first elected as the county’s chief prosecutor in 2006 and has faced little to no opposition in his reelection campaigns since.

This month, McCarthy announced that he is commissioning a $500,000 study to evaluate whether and how racial bias affects the operations of the state’s attorney’s office, from deciding what cases to pursue to what kind of plea deals are offered. The results will be published in two years, he said.

“I’m proud of the fact we’re willing to do this,” he said at the time. “We’re not afraid to do this.”

Mireku-North, however, said she thinks McCarthy lacks the “sense of urgency” that activists and residents want to see when it comes to criminal justice reform. “It shouldn’t take two years to be transparent,” she said. “We should get started right away.”

McCarthy did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In 2019, several longtime prosecutors in Northern Virginia were ousted by challengers to their left. Candidates who labeled themselves as “progressives” won elections for commonwealth’s attorney offices in Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties.

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