Smalls, Nicholas, Leszcz likely re-elected; DeWalt, Sydnor apparent winners in Laurel City Council elections

With absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted, it appears Laurel residents have voted-in two newcomers to the City Council and re-elected three Team Laurel incumbents in Tuesday’s city elections.

In Ward 1, newcomer Carl DeWalt and incumbent Valerie Nicholas won the two seats, according to Tuesday’s unofficial count. Councilman H. Edward Ricks received 439 votes, 17 votes behind DeWalt, who received 456 votes as of Tuesday’s count. Nicholas received the most votes in her ward, 464, as of Tuesday’s count. With 25 absentee ballots yet to be counted, the race is too close to call.

Kim Rau, clerk to the City Council, said 616 voters cast their ballots in Ward 1 at the Laurel Municipal Center, while 660 residents voted in Ward 2 at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center.

On Wednesday, Rau said the city received 25 absentee ballots in Ward 1 and two absentee ballots in Ward 2. In Ward 1, 13 provisional ballots need to be verified and 15 provisional ballots are awaiting verification in Ward 2, according to Rau. The Board of Elections is expected to count write-ins as well as absentee and provisional ballots today at 5 p.m.

Late Tuesday night, Nicholas said she was glad to win after walking and campaigning, door-to-door.

“I’ve been very active all through the years,” said Nicholas, who’s served in Ward 1 since 2011. “I’m out there doing something, helping people and serving.”

DeWalt said his campaign has been “a long road,” but he’s looking forward to continuing to advocate for the community.

“I met hundreds and hundreds of great people in Laurel,” DeWalt said. “That was the best thrill of doing all this hard work. They came out and supported me, which is very humbling.”

Ricks, who started with the council in 1980, said it was “a very tough race.”

“In this world, sometimes, things have to happen the way it happens. You have to be a man, step up and accept it,” he said. “I’ve worked hard for the city and I think I’ve done a good job. I’m sorry that the voters didn’t see it the same way that I did.”

Incumbent Frederick Smalls was re-elected to Ward 2 in a heavily contested race, which featured challengers Keith Sydnor, Adrian Rousseau and Thomas Matthews. Unofficial results kept Smalls in Ward 2 with 381 votes, and elected Sydnor with 452.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Donna Crary did not seek re-election.

Smalls said he was pleased with Tuesday’s results and is enthusiastic about working with Sydnor.

“He brings the energy; I bring the experience,” Smalls said. “We’re going to be a dynamite team together.”

After hearing the results, Sydnor said he felt excited and thankful for those who supported him in his first political campaign.

“The campaign is all about us working together as a community," Sydnor said. "Every decision I make I'll make sure to include the voters of Ward 2. I'm very grateful and looking forward to doing a great job as a councilman."

Rousseau and Matthews received 241 and 270, respectively. It’s unlikely that provisional ballots or absentee ballots will change the outcome in Ward 2.

Rousseau and Matthews did not respond to calls for comment Tuesday.

Councilman Michael Leszcz will also remain in the at-large seat with 786, defeating Jeffrey Mills, who received 623 votes in the unofficial count. Mills ran unsuccessfully for one of the two Ward 2 seats in 2015.

“The voters have spoken. We’ll keep moving ahead,” Leszcz said Wednesday. “The winners are up to the public. They have to assess who is going to do the best job for them for the next two years and I think we’re going to do a great job.”

Mills said Wednesday that he was displeased with the Board of Elections, following his complaint about some of Team Laurel’s campaign literature that had no authority line — a violation of election policy.

“Something has to be done and I’m not looking to hang my gloves up just yet,” Mills said.

On Election Day, voters Mary Miller, 92, and Mary Walker, 74, said they were excited to see people, especially other senior citizens, voting despite the cold, rainy weather. Miller and Walker said they voted for DeWalt, noting his campaign promise to increase police patrol on Main Street.

“It’s so dangerous crossing that street,” Walker said. “I live in the senior building there and we have a hard time getting across. People don’t pay attention to the light [in the crosswalk]; they just go straight through it. I think he’ll be good for the council. He has senior citizens at heart.”

“He just seems like a nice guy,” Miller added.

Rau said complaints were filed between at-large and Ward 2 candidates Tuesday morning regarding campaign literature and what they said was misinformation; however, complaints have been addressed by Board of Elections Chairman John Kish, she said.

Laurel saw its highest early voting turnout on Nov. 4 with 242 voters at the Municipal Center, Rau said. Approximately 13,000 voters in Laurel are eligible to vote in city elections; voters must be registered to vote in Prince George’s County.

This story has been updated.

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