Hyattsville voters chose incumbent interim Mayor and Ward 1 City Councilor Kevin Ward as their next mayor, along with five other City Council members, concluding the spring 2021 municipal election season along the Route 1 corridor, with elections in Mount Rainier, Brentwood, Riverdale Park and University Park taking place the week before.
The elections brought some firsts, as well. In Hyattsville Ward becomes the first African American man elected to the Mayor’s office. Ward is also the first African American man to serve as Mayor, though he earned that distinction in January when he succeeded former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, who resigned her seat early to focus on other political ambitions.
Ward handily beat campaign rivals in Ward Five City Councilor Joseph Solomon and political newcomer Austin Martinez. Ward received 1,606 votes to Solomon’s 823 and Martinez’s 247. With only 500 same-day votes uncounted, Ward’s 783-vote lead over Solomon is more than enough to secure the win.
Ward, after thanking his opponents for their work on their campaigns, said he was looking forward to his next two-years serving out the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term.
“My focus is to keep doing my job, the one I’ve been doing since January, which is to keep running the city of Hyattsville,” said Ward in an interview after the election results were announced. “I really want to engage with residents to take it to the next level and I have various ideas on that I’ll be talking about in the next few weeks.”
Election changes in Hyattsville
Hyattsville’s election also broke new ground, trying for the first time to conduct its election as an entirely vote-by-mail affair. Last year, as the pandemic upended life, Hyattsville City Council made several changes to its election procedures to enable a vote-by-mail election. They pushed the Election Day back one week, the mailed ballots to every voter registered in the city, and bought ballot drop-boxes to collect ballots. Residents could still cast their ballots on Election Day at city hall if they liked.
The result was a massive increase in voter turnout. Roughly 3,000 voters cast ballots in the election, equivalent to 28 percent of the registered voters in the city, and besting a previous record set in 2017 when 15 percent of the city’s voters turned out.
Hyattsville ward results
Victories in Hyattsville’s Council ward races are slightly less certain than Ward’s victory due to the outstanding ballots remaining to be counted. In a four-war race for Ward One’s City Council seat, Sam Denes held a 98 vote lead over Mai Abdul Rahman, with Denes’ 333 votes to Abdul Rahman’s 235. Other candidates did not fare as well. Michael Brown received 199 votes and Daniel Vallejos received 31.
In a six-way race to represent Ward Three, Jimmy McClellan held a 119 vote advantage over Sherlyna Hanna, 245 to 126. They both lead James Wigley, who got 53 votes, Adam Alfano, who got 35 votes, Alexander Houck, who got 18 votes, and Chuck Perry, who got 13 votes.
In Ward Four, incumbent Councilor Edouard Haba cruised unopposed to win 266 votes.
In Ward Five, Rommel Sandino clings to a 57 vote lead over rivals Patricia Page, who received 46 votes to Sandino’s 103. Both are ahead of Daniel Amador, who secured 30 votes, and Kurt Brintzenhofe, who secured 30 votes, and Sophie Gorman Oriani, who secured 28 votes.
In Mount Rainier, City Councilor Celina Benitez handily defeated a write-in challenge from fellow Councilor Scott Cecil to become the city’s first Latina mayor. Benitez’s election to Mayor also represents a huge shift in the city’s political landscape, as Mayor Malinda Miles, herself the first African American to be elected to the position, stepped down after 16 years leading the city. Miles is the longest-tenured of any mayor in town history.
“I would like to say thank you to those who opened doors for us,” said Benitez after being sworn in. “I know you came into a town that did not welcome you and you turned it into a town that is now very welcoming to us.”
Incumbent Ward One City Councilor Luke Chesek and local politics newcomer Jarrett Stoltzfus, running in Ward 2, both ran unopposed and as a result handily won their seats.
In Brentwood, Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez was re-elected, defeating former Vice Mayor Tonya Harrison-Edwards 310 votes to 136.
“I could say so many negative things and name so many malicious people; But blessings come from God and one have to accept obstacles and challenges to become victorious,” said Treminio-Lopez in a Facebook post after the election. “I want to continue working for our community and with the support of this new team I am sure we will be able to achieve many changes in our community.”
Brentwood voters also selected five Town Council members from a slate of six candidates. The top-five vote recipients win seats in Brentwood’s system. Quianna Taylor, a former Brentwood town employee, secured 339 votes, followed by Stefan Leggin at 328, Mary Vechery at 274, and Marcus Monroe at 236. Incumbent first-time Town Councilor Alicia Tarr did not hold on to her seat, coming in sixth with 219 votes.
Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson held on to his seat, running unopposed. In fact, all but one of Riverdale Park’s six ward races were unopposed. Karen Mejia, an activist involved in rent strikes in the city’s low-income apartment complexes, won the lone contested race, beating Colleen Richardson 28 votes to 6.
University Park saw voters choose candidates for four Town Council ward seats in Wards Two, Four, Five and Six of its seven Wards. In Ward Two, Mary Gathercole won over Joseph Schultz 89 votes to 49 votes. In Ward Four, Nathaniel Morgan secured 86 votes on his way to an unopposed win. In Ward Five, David McGaughey secured 71 votes to John Tabori’s 69. In Ward Six, Martha Wells won 54 votes en route to an uncontested victory.