A few surprises are popping up, along with more-expected announcements, now that the filing deadline for candidates in Laurel's upcoming local elections is just over two weeks away.
Candidates have until Sept. 6 to file their applications for the Nov. 1 City Council and mayoral elections.
In the expected column, Mayor Craig Moe sent out a letter to residents this week, asking for their support of his candidacy for a third term in office. Thus far, no one has surfaced as a potential opponent to the mayor, who ran unopposed five years ago.
On the council side, the surprise is that a four-term incumbent has made it official she will not run for re-election. Ward 1 Council member Jan Robison said she will not run this time around, citing health problems as the reason behind her decision.
"It was not an easy decision and not what I wanted to do," Robison said, "but it's what it has to be at this time because I can't physically do it right now. If I can't do a job 100 percent, the way I used to do it, I don't want to do it and right now, I can't even do 50 percent," she said.
"If I were a constituent, I wouldn't want my council person to not be on the job," Robison said. "I used to be at everything, but now, I can't."
Robison, who spearheaded the Keep Kids Alive safe-speed campaign and supported speed cameras in school zones, described the past few weeks as an emotional roller coaster as she pondered her political future.
"I had my petitions signed, and my heart was saying I could do it, but my head told me it would be stupid to run because I need to get well. So I'm listening to my head because I'm tired of feeling bad," Robison said.
Robison suffers from amyloidosis, a bone marrow disease where an abnormal protein, amyloid, is produced and builds up in a person's organs, causing the organs to malfunction. The diagnosis and treatment for the condition is similar to what cancer patients go through, but amyloidosis is not a cancerous ailment. Robison received chemotherapy treatment in the past for the disease and depending on the outcome of a recent biopsy, she may have to go through another round of chemo.
"I have times when I feel pretty good and times when I don't get out of bed," said Robison who has not worked, outside of her City Council duties, in two years. "Deciding not to run was a hard, hard decision, because I've loved it all, and it's hard to think of not running, but this doesn't mean I won't be involved doing something. I don't know how to not be involved in the city."
Other incumbents undecided
The other council incumbents are undecided at this point about running for re-election. Four-term Ward 2 Council member Frederick Smalls, who in 2006 became the council's first black president, said he's weighing family considerations and could end up going either way.
"One day, I'm definitely going to run; and the next day, I'm definitely not. So, I haven't come to a concrete decision," Smalls said. "I love serving Laurel's residents, but I also want to have more involvement with my grandsons. In anything I do, I want to give it my all, so I'm trying to decide what I want to do."
Also in the undecided column is Ward 2 Council member Donna Crary, who is finishing up her first term on the council. She said she has a long list she's going through as she makes a decision.
"I'm looking at work and everything, including the time this involves, what I can do for the city and what I've done for the city," Crary said. "I enjoy serving the people, helping people and the council work, but I haven't decided if I'll run."
City Council President Michael Leszcz, who has served on the council for seven terms as an at-large member, is still pondering whether he will file next month to run for re-election. He hopes to make a decision soon but gave no reasons as to why he is not sure if he will run again. One thing he did say is that his delay on making a decision is not because he is considering running for a higher office in the county or state.
"I have no other political aspirations and never saw this position as a stepping stone for me," Leszcz said. "My political life is in Laurel."
City Council member Valerie Nicholas, who was appointed by the council to fill the term of Ward 1 member Gayle Snyder, who resigned June 1 prior to her term ending, has said since she was sworn in that she planned to seek a full term on the council. When Nicholas was appointed, six others applied for Snyder's seat, and some of them will run in November. H. Edward Ricks, who served on the council from 1980 to 1988 and applied for Snyder's position, has filed to run in Ward 1. As of early this week, City Clerk Kim Rau said Ricks' application was the only one she had received.
Changes in election rules
There will be a few changes for candidates and voters in this year's election. Council members approved legislation to comply with state regulations that require candidates to complete a more detailed disclosure form. Also, because of concern raised by the Prince George's NAACP and Maryland ACLU, the council amended election rules so those who have completed jail sentences and are registered voters can run for office. Extensive background checks of candidates will not be required as previously proposed.
In addition, polling places will be available in both city wards, instead of having all voters cast ballots at one location in Ward 1, as in past elections. Ward 1 residents will vote at the Laurel Municipal Center on Sandy Spring Road, and Ward 2 residents will cast ballots at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center on Cypress Street. This year, for the first time, residents will only be allowed to vote for City Council candidates running for office in their own ward, as well as an at-large candidate and mayor.
Absentee ballots must be returned by Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. The newly elected council members and mayor will be sworn in on Nov. 28.