All City Council seats to face contested races in November

It appears Laurel voters will be choosing  City Council members in contested races for Ward I, Ward 2 and the at-large seat in the Nov. 5 city elections, according to Board of Elections clerk Kim Rau.

But just a few hours before today's 5 p.m. deadline for filing, November’s election was shaping up to be uncontested races as only the five incumbent City Council members had filed to run for office.

Shortly before noon, Adrian Rousseau, a community advocate for youth who is a member of the city's Laurel Boys and Girls Club task force, filed paperwork to challenge Mike Leszcz for the at-large City Council seat, a rematch of the 2011 election race where Leszcz was re-elected for his eighth term.

Then John Smith filed candidacy papers to run in Ward 1, where he will face incumbent Council members Edward Ricks and Valerie Nicholas.

Thomas Matthews was the last to file, and will face Ward 2 Council members Donna Crary and Fred Smalls  in the city election Nov. 5.

City Council elections are held every two years. Elections for the mayor’s seat are held every four years; the next election for mayor will be in November 2015.

In this year's election, city residents will vote for two City Council seats from the ward they live in, Ward 1 or Ward 2. In addition, all residents will vote for one at-large council member. A total of five City Council members will be elected.

Ricks, who has represented Ward 1 since 2011 and also served from 1980 to 1988, was the first candidate to file, submitting his paperwork to Board of Elections clerk Kim Rau on Aug. 29. Ward 2 City Council member Donna Crary, who has served two terms, followed Ricks by a few hours.

Smalls, the current council president, has represented Ward 2 for five terms, and Nicholas was appointed to the Council in June 2011 to fill the vacancy left when Ward 1 City Council member Gayle Snyder retired; Nicholas and elected to the seat that November.

The official election ballot will be certified Oct. 7 and early voting will be held Saturday, Nov. 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m at the Laurel Municipal Center.

When the city’s Board of Elections rolled out early voting for the first time in the November 2011 mayor and City Council elections, early voting was offered for three days. In that election, 233 of the nearly 1,900 total voters participated in early voting, which used hand-written paper ballots instead of voting machines.

“We weren’t sure how many would come out” in 2011, Rau said. “We heard feedback and decided to offer just one day of early voting and to use machines, not paper ballots.”

Rau said the board will reevaluate the current voting procedures again after this November’s elections, and could increase the number of early voting days.

Some of the forms filed by city candidates include a candidate affidavit form, certificate of nomination form with signatures of 30 qualified voters and a treasurer appointment form. Rau said she authenticates the signatures as soon as the nomination forms are filed, and encouraged candidates to secure more than 30 in the event some signatures are invalid.  Signatures for the five incumbent candidates and three challengers had been authenticated by Tuesday, Rau said.

This story has been updated.

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