In a wide open race for Howard County Council, 16 candidates are in the running for the five seats, with contested primary races in four districts.
Four of five members of the council have reached their three-term limit and leave office in December.
District 1 Democratic Councilman Jon Weinstein is the only member eligible for re-election and faces one challenger in the Democratic primary, Ellicott City resident Liz Walsh. Walsh declared her candidacy on Feb. 27; a campaign committee has been established but has yet to disclose fundraising to the state Board of Elections.
One Republican is running in the district, Ellicott City resident Raj Kathuria. Weinstein has outpaced Kathuria in fundraising so far, listing $85,284.91 compared with Kathuria’s $14,360.74.
Two candidates are running in District 2, Columbia residents John Liao, a Republican, and Democrat Opel Jones.
District 3 is more crowded, with four Democrats competing in the June 26 primary. They are Hiruy Hadgu, of Savage, Laurel residents Steve Hunt and Greg Jennings, and Christiana Rigby of Columbia. Jennings currently has the most cash on hand of the four, with $16,554.03 as of Jan. 10, followed by Rigby with $10,601.97.
In District 4, former Board of Education member Janet Siddiqui entered the race Feb. 14. Despite her recent filing, Siddiqui has $105,709.75 on hand, thanks to $100,000 from the Excellence for Howard County slate. The slate is financed by the political committee Friends of Nayab Siddiqui, formed during Siddiqui’s husband, Nayab Siddiqui’s, 2014 bid for the District 13 delegate seat to the state legislature.
Janet Siddiqui served on the school board from 2007 to 2016, but was voted out of office in November 2016 during a grass-roots push to bring in new voices amid opposition to then-Superintendent Renee Foose. She also briefly ran for a state legislative seat from District 13 in 2014.
Siddiqui faces two Democrats in the primary, Columbia residents Ian Bradley Moller Knudsen and Deb Jung. Republican Laurel resident Lisa Kim is also running for the seat.
Several people have already withdrawn from the District 4 race, including Simpsonville Democrat Alicia Altamirano, Clarksville Democrat Cynthia Fikes and Democrat Byron MacFarlane, of Columbia.
MacFarlane is running for re-election as county Register of Wills, a position he’s held since 2010. Altamirano is running for Howard County Democratic Central Committee.
District 5, a historically GOP stronghold, is the only district with multiple Republicans running in the primary. Columbia resident Jim Walsh and David George Yungmann, of Woodbine, are both running. Ellicott City resident China Williams, a Democrat, is also running.
Major topics of the campaign will likely include development and immigration, said outgoing District 5 Republican councilman Greg Fox.
Fox, who has served on the council since 2006, said he expects the debate over whether to declare the county a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants, an issue that divided the county last February, to make a comeback. Democratic council members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa spearheaded a legislative effort to declare the county a sanctuary, which was vetoed by County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican.
“I think the sanctuary county issue is a huge one that’s on the table. That was only stopped because there weren’t four votes to override the veto,” Fox said. “If it’s a different council makeup, we could end up being a sanctuary county, that’s probably going to be a huge issue.”
Fox said he also expects the county’s rewrite of its zoning codes, including zoning regulations that are specific to the Columbia area, as well as growing development of the Columbia Gateway business district, to be other significant issues the next council will need to tackle. The County Council serves as the county’s Zoning Board to review projects.