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Opinion Our endorsements for County Council in Prince George’s

Jolene Ivey in 2013 in Beltsville. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

TWO YEARS AGO, Prince George’s County’s nine district County Council members pushed to add two at-large members to their ranks — a good-government move that also happened to provide a way for term-limited incumbents to remain in office. Voters approved the measure at referendum.

Two of those term-limited incumbents are now seeking the at-large seats in a crowded field of candidates on the June 26 Democratic primary ballot that also features competitive races for seven of the nine district seats on the council. (The county being overwhelmingly Democratic, the primary victors are assured of victory in November.)

It’s critical that Prince George’s, which has come so far in the past decade to repair damage inflicted by an array of scandals and sticky-fingered politicians, elect qualified candidates. Fortunately, there are good choices in most of the races — though in some, their story line includes a plea for redemption.

That’s certainly the case in the at-large races, where several of the best-known candidates have apologized for transgressions in their past, none of them trivial. That leaves voters to choose among candidates who, whatever their attributes, are politely referred to as “flawed.”

That said, there is much to admire in the two best candidates for the at-large seats: Calvin Hawkins and Gerron S. Levi.

Mr. Hawkins has spent years in Prince George’s government, a chunk of it overseeing the county’s Community Emergency Response Team, a disaster-relief operation that organizes volunteers who work with first responders. Tireless and compassionate, he is committed to public service for the right reasons — namely, to help people. His past includes prison time more than 30 years ago on an armed robbery conviction when he was about 20 years old and, a decade ago, a sexual-harassment episode involving a co-worker. As a candidate, he has been forthright about both.

Ms. Levi, a former state lawmaker, is a lawyer well versed in local and state policy who would provide the council with valuable input into goings-on in Annapolis and expertise on supporting homeowners in a county where many struggle with negative equity.

We cannot support Mel Franklin or Karen R. Toles, the two current council members seeking at-large seats. Mr. Franklin (D-District 9) is politically agile and smart, but he totaled a county-issued car in 2012 while distracted at the wheel and had banged that car up two months earlier in an incident he didn’t report to the police. He was arrested in 2016 and subsequently pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after smashing yet another government vehicle into a Mercedes, injuring two people, after which he wandered away from the scene. All that suggests a degree of personal irresponsibility unacceptable in a public servant.

Ms. Toles (D-District 7) is similarly heedless of her obligations; she is notorious for telling a police officer “this is why people don’t like P.G.” after going about 105 mph on the Beltway in a county-issued vehicle in 2012. Between 2011 and 2016, she received 46 tickets for speeding, ignoring toll booths or red lights, and parking violations. On the council, she is regarded as disorganized, unprepared and a practitioner of bluster. She does not deserve to remain.

In the contested district races, our endorsements are as follows:

District 1: Craig A. Moe, the diligent mayor of Laurel since 2002, has broad and deep experience in local affairs — he was also president of the Maryland Municipal League — and a track record that includes upgrading ethics laws, initiating an affordable housing program and serving for decades in the city’s volunteer fire department, of which he is a past president. He was instrumental in restructuring the regional hospital in Laurel, a major community asset. He is a vastly better pick than his rival, Thomas Dernoga, whose previous tenure on the County Council is remembered mainly for ethical shenanigans that helped drive away employers and stain the county’s reputation as a haven for pay-to-play politics.

District 2: Candace Hollingsworth, the exceptionally effective mayor of Hyattsville since 2015, is one of the county’s brightest young stars; she has detailed and actionable plans to cultivate affordable housing and public-private partnerships to attract businesses. Her opponent, Deni Taveras, is a solid incumbent known for pushing to provide legal aid for unauthorized immigrants — and also for alienating some colleagues and constituents.

District 5: Jolene Ivey, a former state legislator, was an accomplished lawmaker in Annapolis and would be an asset on the County Council.

District 6: We endorsed the incumbent, Derrick Leon Davis, four years ago and do so again on the strength of his irrepressible efforts to attract high-end employers and good jobs to his district and the county.

District 7: In a crowded field, the most promising candidate is Rodney Colvin Streeter, chief of staff to the term-limited incumbent, Andrea C. Harrison. Low-key, detail-oriented and competent, Mr. Streeter has a command of economic-development issues.

District 8: Monique Anderson-Walker, a savvy small-business owner and commercial real estate broker, knows her district inside-out, having negotiated deals to land an array of employers to the area.

District 9: Tamara Davis Brown, a telecommunications lawyer, is one of the county’s most effective community activists. Few candidates are as well versed on land use and zoning. Her main rival, Sydney Harrison, has been an excellent clerk of the court but lacks Ms. Brown’s breadth of experience in the county.

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