2021 | Politics

Sayles seeking County Council seat as Gaithersburg political landscape shifts

Sesma also not running for re-election to City Council

share this

Gaithersburg City Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles is running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council.

From City of Gaithersburg website

Gaithersburg City Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles is running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council, meaning both City Council incumbents whose seats are on the ballots this year are not seeking re-election.

Gaithersburg City Council Member Mike Sesma announced on Monday that he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Three candidates had announced as of Wednesday to run for the seats held by Sayles and Sesma.

Sayles announced in Silver Spring on Tuesday that she is running for an at-large seat on the council in the Democratic primary. Sayles, who works at the Food and Drug Administration, is nearing the end of a four-year term.

Sesma, who has served on the council for 16 years, said on Monday that he doesn’t plan to seek election to another office.

Mayor Jud Ashman told Bethesda Beat last week that he is running for another term. Ashman has served as mayor since 2014 and was on the council for seven years before that.

The three candidates who have announced their candidacy for City Council are:

  • Dave Belgard, the senior financial compliance officer at the aerospace company General Dynamics Information Technology
  • Jim McNulty, who chairs the Olde Town Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the city’s Economic Development Committee. He was one of three people taken hostage by a gunman in 2010 at the Discovery Channel headquarters building in Silver Spring and later started a support group for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Philip Cook wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that he is running, too. He has launched a Facebook page for his campaign and an online petition to get enough signatures to get on the ballot. Cook is a data auditor at Vanda Pharmaceuticals, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Gaithersburg’s election will be Nov. 2, and include both in-person and absentee voting. The city holds its municipal elections every two years, with the mayor and council members serving staggered four-year terms.

Ashman told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that there are more open seats on the council in this year’s election than at any time in the past 14 years. There were three open seats in 2007, he said.

“Any time there are open seats, there is gonna be competition,” he said.

Ashman said a competitive election will help the city and could lead to more turnout than in years past.

“The fact that there’s gonna be a mail-in component to it, and looking at the experience that Rockville had, they got a lot more participation. So, I’d expect some increase in participation,” Ashman said, referring to Rockville’s 2019 vote-by-mail election.

Ashman said he thinks the future of the Lakeforest Mall site will be the “biggest issue facing the city” in the next election. Other top priorities will include the growth of the Md. 355 corridor and the Olde Towne area.

County Council field expands

William Roberts, formerly the legislative director for U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), is running for the County Council in District 2. Roberts wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that he plans to formally launch his campaign in the coming weeks.

Roberts currently works at the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy institute.

Council Member Craig Rice, who holds the District 2 seat now, is term-limited and can’t seek re-election.

The four at-large seats on the County Council are currently held by Council Members Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass, Will Jawando and Hans Riemer.

Riemer, who is term-limited, has launched his campaign for county executive. Riemer is seeking the Democratic nomination against David Blair and incumbent Marc Elrich.

Jawando, Glass and Albornoz are all seeking re-election.

In addition to the four at-large seats on the ballot next year, there will also be seven district seats on the council, up from five. Voters approved two additional seats through a referendum in the 2020 general election.

Challengers who have filed or announced they are running for seats on the council next year include:

  • Sayles, Kristin Mink, Kim Kellerman, Brandy Brooks, Christa Tichy (at-large)
  • Roberts, Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Balcombe (District 2)
  • Former state Del. Maricé Morales, Montgomery County Planning Board Vice Chair Natali Fani-Gonzalez (District 4) (Incumbent Nancy Navarro also is term-limited and has not announced her plans.)

Of the candidates who have announced they are running, only Fani-Gonzalez, Tichy, Kellerman and Brooks had filed as of Wednesday evening, according to the State Board of Elections website.

The filing deadline is Feb. 22.

The 2022 primary will be held on June 28, and the general election on Nov. 8.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com