2021 | Politics

Takoma Park mayor eyeing County Council seat

Teachers union organizer also considering running

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Kate Stewart, left, and Peter Witzler

City of Takoma Park website (left); submitted photo

Kate Stewart, the Democratic mayor of Takoma Park, said she’s seriously considering running for a new County Council seat that’s a product of redistricting.

Before formally announcing her candidacy, Stewart, 51, said she is waiting for the Montgomery County Council to approve a new political map.

The new map would increase the number of council seats from five to seven and include a new district that encompasses Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Kensington and North Bethesda. Its shape has been described as a “bow tie.”

“I am interested in entering the race,” Stewart said. “I’ve had a front-row seat, particularly during COVID, to see what we are doing well (in the county) and to determine what we should do in the future”

Stewart has been Takoma Park’s mayor since 2015. She said that has given her experience in dealing with some of the same issues facing the County Council, including housing affordability, racial equity and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is a principal at Conway Strategic, an all-female consulting firm that says it is staffed with “Moms (and others) committed to work-life balance.”

Because she would be running in a new district, Stewart would face no incumbent.

Peter Witzler, 42, of Montgomery Village is also considering joining the crowded field running for the County Council.

He’s a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and a union organizer with the National Education Association.

“For a long time, I’ve been considering how I can be of best service in Montgomery County,” Witzler said.

Witzler said he’s interested in a new upcounty district that, like the one Stewart is eyeing, has no incumbent

He said his frustration with County Council members stems from when he sought to get a COVID-19 vaccine for his 6-year-old son Jackson, which stoked his desire to seek public office.

Jackson has spina bifida — a malformation of the spine — and is immunocompromised.

“I was told, over and over again: ‘Don’t worry. We have a plan.’ That kids like Jackson would be first in line,” Witzler said. “But that didn’t happen.”

When the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds was released, Witzler said, there was no prioritization of children like Jackson and it was a struggle to get him inoculated.

Based on the current boundaries, Witzler would join five other candidates who have filed to run in District 4. However, that area would become District 7 if the proposed new political map is adopted.

Others interested in representing the district, all Democrats, include:

• Natali Fani-González, a former member of the county’s Planning Board and a business consultant
• Omar Lazo, co-owner of Los Chorros Restaurant in Wheaton
• Maricé Morales, an attorney and former state delegate
• Paul Schwartz, a lobbyist in Annapolis
• Dawn Luedtke, an assistant attorney general for Maryland.

Because council members must live in the district they represent, some of these candidates might end up in another district when a final redistricting map is approved.

Because of the creation of two new council districts and the term-limiting of several members of the council, there are already more than two dozen declared candidates for one of the seven district council seats or one of the four at-large seats. More candidates are expected.

There’s still plenty of time to file as a County Council candidate. The filing deadline for next year’s elections is Feb. 22.

The primary election is scheduled for June 28, and the general election is set for Nov. 8.