The special election to fill the former county council Leslie Johnson’s seat in Prince George’s County has reached epic proportions.
As for Monday, August 29, 2011, fifteen (15) different PG County residents are vying to fill her vacated seat. For the next several weeks, you can bet there will be serious campaigning all over the county before the primary election on September 20th.
Those that are running: DEMOCRAT – Venus Bethea, Van Caldwell, Thirl Crudup, Derrick Leon Davis, Wanda Dixon McKnight, Esther Hankerson, Wayne Lynwood Leach, Cassandra Lewis, Margaret Okoroji-Schaeffer, Christine Osei, Mark Polk, Brad Donnie Ray, Sherine Taylor, and Arthur Turner. Also there is a lone REPUBLICAN – Day Gardner. Whomever wins the Democratic primary will face Gardner, where there are 3,617 registered Republicans in Prince George’s County (there are more than 76, 000 registered voters in the county).
Some residents are concerned; not by the number, but by the quality of people running. Many of the PG County residents were not so quick to see Johnson go because they were unsure of who was going to replace her. Now, that they have a solid list of fifteen (15), a few are still unsure. Sandy Pruitt, who leads Prince George’s People for Change has said that most of names listed, county residents have not seen before.
“I’ve looked at the names of people running,” said PG County resident Travis Duncan, who is also a returning citizen, “but half the names I don’t know, and those I do know, they aren’t worth their salt.”
Duncan said he doesn’t live in Mitchellville, the area the vacant seat represents, but liked the idea of having Johnson on the council.
“Leslie Johnson was elected before the scandal broke out, and in the beginning I liked the idea of her on the council because she’s a former judge. But after all that stuff went down with her stuffing cash in her clothes to hide from the FBI and everybody – well, sadly, she had to go.”
“I’m not all that anxious to get this election going unless we get a new person in who’s going to implement change,” Pruitt said. “With most of the people who are attempting to run, we’re going to get the same old services.”
Derrick Leon Davis, Mark Polk, Venus Bethea, and Arthur Turner are familiar names because Johnson defeated them in November.
Since the scandal broke last year, people have been preparing to run for the seat on the county council.
Douglas Edwards, a community activist in Johnson’s old district didn’t mind her remaining in office until sentencing.
“We have done a lot worse in Prince George’s County than Leslie Johnson, especially when it comes to constituent services,” he said.
Al-Muhammad Blevins-Bey, a returning citizen and resident of Forestville, believes she should have left the minute she was arrested.
“It didn’t make any sense to have someone on the county council who had not been assigned to any committees,” Blevins-Bey said, “and had not been given a chance to allow the council members to guide development deals through the zoning processes”
He added that placing having to place restrictions on elected officials does a disservice to the people that elected them.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker had called for her immediate resignation, while many of her fellow council members were not as vocal (although privately some thought she should).
Johnson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal witness- and evidence-tampering charges, including stuffing $79,600 in cash down her bra and flushing a $100,000 check on the instructions of her husband, then County Executive Jack Johnson. While her resignation was all but guaranteed, she was allowed to remain in office until Oct. 13th (when she is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt), but elected to resign before then.
The area in question is comprised of Mitchellville, Upper Marlboro, Forestville and other minor areas.
The general election is October 18th.