Early voting for the primary begins

Laurel Leader

Primary election day is more than a week away but early voting begins June 14 and continues through June 21.

For Laurel voters, local races include Prince George’s County Council and for the Democratic Central Committee District 21 and District 23 members and members at-large.

District 21, in Prince George’sand Anne Arundel counties, includes Laurel,College Park and the unincorporated areas — where there is no municipal government — South Laurel, West Laurel, Adelphi, Beltsville, Calverton, Fort Meade, Hillandale, Konterra, Langley Park, Maryland City and Odenton.

District 23A, in Prince George’s County, includes Bowie, and the unincorporated areas of South Laurel, Bowie, Fairwood and Glenn Dale.

The primary election is June 26.

Prince George’s County Council

Former Prince George’s District 1 Council member Tom Dernoga and current Mayor Craig Moe are vying for the open District 1 seat. Mary A. Lehman, the outgoing council member, has served since January 2011 andcan’t seek re-election due to term limits.

District 1 represents the areas of Adelphi, Beltsville, Calverton, College Park, Laurel, Montpelier, South Laurel, West Laurel and Vansville.

Dernoga, 59, of Laurel, served on the council for nine years, from January 2002 to 2010, after filling a vacancy by special election when council member Walter Maloney died in the fall of 2001. Former supporters asked him to run again because of his background as a civic and environmental activist attorney, he said.

While in office, Dernoga saw a senior center constructed, secured a majority of the funding for the library and had an auditorium added to Laurel High School.

If elected, Dernoga plans to work on reducing traffic congestion and investing in infrastructure renovations.

“I will ensure that citizens concerns in development matters are listened to and that environmental impacts [in such matters] are considered,” Dernoga said.

Moe, 58, of Laurel, is running for the District 1 seat to further his work for the citizens of Laurel, but also for all the residents of Prince George’s County, he said.

“I think we have done some good things in the city and I would like to take that districtwide at the county level,” Moe said.

Moe, who has been Laurel’s mayor for the past 16 years, said he brings trusted leadership and proven experience to the table. He also said he would bring new energy to help solve problems.

Throughout his campaign, Moe has heard from citizens that their main concern is education.

“The most important thing … is providing good schools and good environments for teaching,” Moe said.

If elected, Moe would also look into transportation, infrastructure and public safety.

Both Dernoga and Moe are members of the Democratic Party.

Democratic Central Committee

There are 13 candidates vying for either a district seat or a district at-large position on the the Democratic Central Committee of Prince George’s County, a 24-member elected body that helps Democratic candidates become elected.

Members are elected by their district and county voters to serve a four-year term. Elected members also become members of the Democratic State Central Committee, the governing body of the Maryland Democratic Party.

There are eight legislative districts in Prince George’s County. There is a total of three central committee members per legislative distict, two being regular members and one at-large member.

Democratic Central Committee-District 21

In District 21, five Democratic candidates are vying for two open seats on the Democratic Central Committee. The political hopefuls are Daniel Alpert, Linda Diasgranados, Cliff Green, Brian McDaniel and Denise Mitchell.

Green, 23, of College Park, wants to move the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. He said that there are not a lot of Democrats who take progressive stances and he wants to change that.

“I want to bring a voice to the progressive issues,” Green sad. “I’m running for Medicare-for-all, college-for-all and a $15 living minimum wage.”

Minimum wage in Prince George’s County is $11.50.

Green is a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studies government and politics. He works as a light technician at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on campus.

Candidates Alpert, Diasgranados, Mitchell and McDaniel did not return requests for comment.

Democratic Central Committee-District 23A

Four Democratic candidates are vying for one open seat for District 23A. The candidates are Vanessa Agbar, Lydia Zhemile Daniel, Monica Roebuck and Kevin Samuel Thomas.

Agbar, 24, of Bowie, is running because it’s her main mission to support the Democratic party.

“I feel like this is a tumultuous time right now for our party and it's important.. to stand together and to have an effective grassroots base,” Agbar said.

Agbar, who works with the Mental Health Unit in the Patuxent Institution, wants to empower not only the Prince George’s County community, but also the millennials, so they can understand the importance of local elections, voting, voter registration and being informed about candidates.

“Local politics directly affect us everyday,” Agbar said. “I want to educate them on the process of voter registration and supporting candidates and letting the community know that these candidates are the best for what we want to get accomplished.”

Daniel, 26, originally from Nigeria and now a Laurel resident, is running because ‘it's not just about now, but also about the future.’

“I want my 2-year- old daughter to see that black women are running and winning when she is older,” Daniel said.

The grassroots aspect of the Central Committee drew Daniel to the seat.

“Local politics are where you can really see a difference … where you can make your voice be heard,” said Daniel, a lawyer who wants to practice immigration law.

Roebuck, a social studies teacher at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, is running because being involved in the community is extremely important to her.

“Voter registration and participation is extremely low in Prince George’s County,” Roebuck said. “One thing I always say is, ‘that your vote is your voice.’”

Roebuck, of Bowie, said if elected she looks forward to serving Laurel.

“I love Laurel. I was a former resident of Laurel, so I look forward to serving and empowering the people of Laurel,” Roebuck said.

Thomas, 29, of Bowie, is seeking a seat on the Central Committee because he can bring “a different style of leadership” where the elected officials are always present.

To “be present and be in arms reach … [and] to not only be around during election time and then disappear,” is important, saidThomas, a graduate student at Howard University School of Social Work in Washington, D.C. He also runs the Thomas Foundation, a nonprofit, that is focused on holistic development.

Youth empowerment, education, senior citizens advocacy and veterans are the issues he is focusing on for the election.

Each issue carries a personal meaning for him. He is the first college graduate of his family, was raised by a single mother and a grandmother, and is a former U.S, Army field artillery officer.

“I picked these issues because … I thought I could lend my personal experience and motivation,” Thomas said.

Democratic Central Committee At Large

In District 21, Democratic candidates Michelle Garcia and Riley Scott Williams are running for the one committee at-large position.

Neither Williams nor Garcia were available for comment.

In District 23, two Democratic candidates, Willow Emerson and Cheryl Landis, are running for the one committee at-large open seat.

Landis, 64, of Bowie, is running for her third time. She has also been appointed as a gender-balance member to make the committee equal in male and female members.

“This is not my first rodeo,” Landis said. “I love the Democratic party, which is why I do what I do. That’s why I work and continue to serve as a Democratic.”

The role of the Central Committee member is to engage, educate and empower citizens, Landis said.

“Once you engage them, then you can educate them and once they are educated they feel empower to go … and vote,” Landis said.

Landis, retired from the Prince George’s County Public Schools in November 2016, and has since worked for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III as an education coordinator.

Emerson did not return a request for comment.

This story has been updated to correct Dernoga’s age.

jnocera@baltsun.com

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