2022 | Politics

County Council District 5 candidates urge economic development for east county

As the July 19 primary approaches, here are the candidates running for council seats in Districts 5, 6 and 7 

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Editor’s note: With early voting starting July 7, Bethesda Beat will be running election wrap-ups of the races for Montgomery County offices and the General Assembly. Today we focus on the races for County Council Districts 5, 6 and 7.

Inequities and disinvestment in the communities of eastern Montgomery County have emerged as themes in the busy primary race in County Council District 5. 

Some of the candidates for the post are pitching economic development and job creation as a strategy for addressing these problems. Some focus on education or strengthening social safety nets, while other plans emphasize greater support for police. 

The eight Democratic candidates in the running will get to see how well their respective visions are resonating with voters during the July 19 primary election when one of them will clinch the party nomination. The primary victor will go on to compete against Republican Kate Woody in the November general election, although the Democratic candidate is favored to win in left-leaning Montgomery County.

[For more information on candidates for local, state and federal races, check out the Bethesda Beat voters guide.]

The race winner will represent a district that was recently reshaped with data from the 2020 U.S. Census, with boundaries encompassing communities such as Burtonsville, White Oak, Four Corners and Colesville. 

Here are the eight Democratic candidates in the race:

  • Brian Anleu, 33, of Hillandale, is chief of staff to the Montgomery County Planning Board. Previously, he worked as deputy chief of staff to County Council Member Tom Hucker. He believes economic development is the district’s most important issue and would support land use policies and tax mechanisms that would draw biotech companies into the area. He also said he would work to push ahead projects such as Viva White Oak and the redevelopment of the Burtonsville Shopping Center. 
  • Fatmata Barrie, 49, of White Oak, is an immigration and special education law attorney and previously served as senior legislative aide to Council Member Will Jawando. One of her priorities if elected would be ensuring that families aren’t left behind as the county continues to grow. She says she’d focus on supporting small businesses and evaluate projects in light of how they’d impact racial equity in the county. 
  • Christopher Bolton of Silver Spring is a food service director for The Children’s Guild, a local nonprofit that helps children with special emotional, intellectual and social needs. He’s a lifelong county resident who served in the U.S. Navy from 2001 to 2005. Bolton says he’s running because local elected leaders have failed the eastern part of the county and that he’d work to pass legislation strengthening the county’s relationship with public safety agencies. 
  • Daniel Koroma of White Oak is a longtime community organizer who worked for the county for more than a decade, recently as its business liaison officer. Koroma’s website states that if elected, he’d prioritize closing gaps in educational opportunity and fostering a richer business climate in the district.  
  • Cary Lamari, 65, of Silver Spring, is an electrical contractor who formerly served as president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation. He says restoring trust between law enforcement and the public is the district’s most pressing issue and that county leadership must “stop demonizing the police.” He says he would also advocate for strengthening mental health services in the county. 
  • Kristin Mink, 37, of Four Corners, is a senior legislative organizer at the Center for Popular Democracy and a former Montgomery County Public Schools teacher. Mink contends that inequity is the most significant issue in the District 5 race — and says this lack of investment has led to everything from school crowding to economic malaise. Her community organizing experience, she adds, would equip her to advocate for the district to get its fair share of county resources. 
  • William Montier of Fairland works on the enforcement team in the Securities and Exchange Commission. He’s also been a leader in parent teacher associations and worked for a nonprofit that sought to bring educational and job opportunities to youth in Washington, D.C. He said the county needs to work on creating a better business climate and promised that if elected, he would try to simplify local land use laws and streamline planning and permitting processes. 
  • Jeremiah Pope, 41, of Silver Spring is a fundraising consultant and chief of staff to Maryland Del. Charlotte Crutchfield. He said inequity in education is the most important issue facing the district and expressed concern about growing racial, ethnic and income-based segregation among students. If elected, he would also focus on reducing overcrowding in public schools, he said. 

Council District 6

The eight Democrats vying for the primary nomination in council District 6 have also been emphasizing housing, jobs and equity in their campaigns. 

The winner of the primary will face Republican Viet H. Doan during the general election, vying to represent a district that covers Wheaton, Glenmont, Forest Glen and Aspen Hill. 

Here are the eight Democrats in the race: 

  • Natali Fani-González, 41, of Wheaton owns a policy and communications firm and served for seven years on the Montgomery County Planning Board. She is advocating for developing a housing and economic development strategy that will attract good jobs to the county and help people recover from the setbacks of the pandemic. She also says she’d seek funding to improve the county’s streets and make them safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.  
  • Omar Lazo, 45, of Silver Spring is a real estate agent and owner of Los Chorros Restaurant and Simply Bliss Salon. He contends that strengthening workforce development and drawing high-paying jobs into the county should be high priorities for council members. He also believes county leaders haven’t done enough to solicit community outreach on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan and says he’d revamp the public testimony process to accommodate people whose jobs make it difficult to attend daytime county meetings.
  • Maricé Morales, 35, of Silver Spring is a criminal defense, immigration and personal injury attorney and former state delegate. She says that equity — in economic development, transportation and education — will be a top focus for her if she’s elected to the council. The county should also focus on increasing the number of mental health professionals in the school system and overall, she argues. She said she would work to promote the recruitment of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in the county.
  • Steve Solomon, 46, of Wheaton is a podcast host and former radio producer and host. He says economic development is the most important issue in the council race and that, if elected, he’d try to eliminate red tape that bogs down businesses. He also says that he’d prioritize fixing sidewalks and roads that are in disrepair across the county.
  • Christa Tichy, 58, of Rockville is a small business owner and master electrician foreman. Her environmental protection ideas include creating a county composting system, establishing a paper mill and starting programs to support beekeeping — perhaps by producing beeswax-lined paper bags. She also believes in expanding trade schools in the county to give young people more alternatives to four-year college.
  • Mark Trullinger did not respond to the Bethesda Beat voters guide candidate questionnaire, and the state board of elections does not have any listed campaign website for him.
  • Brit Siman-Tov did not respond to Bethesda Beat’s candidate questionnaire. However, her campaign website states that she’s a mother of three who would oppose burdensome business regulation in the county and work to improve parks and playgrounds. 
  • Vicki Vergagni, 73, of Silver Spring is a community manager at a condominium association. Economic development is the most important issue in the council race, she says, and her strategy for job growth would be to draw federal agencies, nonprofits and businesses into the county. She also says the county needs to create more opportunities for low- and middle-income families to pursue home ownership. 

Council District 7

Seven Democrats are in the running for the new upcounty seat created when the council adopted a new district map last year.  

The district includes communities such as Derwood, Olney, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village and Damascus. The winner of the primary race will go up against GOP candidate Harold C. Maldonado in the general election. 

Here are the seven Democrats: 

  • Andrew Einsmann did not respond to Bethesda Beat’s candidate questionnaire. However, his campaign website states that he’s a former volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps and now works in real estate. He says he’s noticed that public safety is a top issue for most of the voters he’s met, and if elected, he would work to increase police pay and benefits and put resource officers back in schools. 
  • Paul Geller, 54, of Olney is a full-time community advocate and past president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. To him, economic advancement is the most important issue of the race, and he’s advocating for a strategic plan to draw businesses and jobs into the county. He also wants to install solar panels on top of schools and increase the number of school psychologists in the county. 
  • Sharif Hidayat, 49, of Laytonsville is an airline captain and retired police officer. His priority if elected would be improving public safety, and he argues that the county needs to put resource officers back into schools. He also believes current elected leaders have done a poor job of cracking down on fraud, waste and abuse and says he would increase accountability for the county’s housing programs.
  • Dawn Luedtke, 48, of Ashton is an assistant attorney general in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. If elected to the council, she said she’d focus on reducing inefficiency and streamlining processes so the county is capable of carrying out its policy goals. She also said she disagrees with the way the county pulled resource officers out of schools and said she would’ve left them in place, while also bolstering mental health resources. 
  • Jacqueline Manger of Olney is a senior official at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. If elected, she would work to strengthen the local economy by advocating for more support for small business navigators and making permitting and inspection processes less burdensome. She also says she disagreed with removing resource officers from schools and said she would’ve left them in place. 
  • Paul K. Schwartz, 69, of Brookeville spent nearly four decades working for the federal government with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If elected, he says he would prioritize expanding the county’s tax base to fund critical priorities from housing to climate change. He would also try to prevent businesses from relocating from Maryland to Virginia. 
  • Ben Wikner, 51, of Montgomery Village is pastor of Cross Community Church and executive director of The Equity Center, a nonprofit that distributes food, provides health services and offers case management. One of his goals if elected would be to cut down on government waste and inefficiency to make the best use of taxpayer funds. He believes upcounty communities have been neglected and said he would create a special committee to engage constituents in the district.

The primary election is July 19. Early voting begins July 7. Mail-in ballots will be accepted as long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. July 19 or are dropped into a ballot drop box by that time.

Bethany Rodgers is a freelance writer who formerly covered schools and development for Bethesda Beat.