Fisher, Olson and Blegay advance in Prince George council races


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Wanika Fisher, Eric Olson and Wala Blegay secured narrow victories in the last three races for Prince George’s County Council to be decided following last week’s primary election, potentially cementing a new Liberal majority on the board.

Fisher, a lawyer and former state delegate, edged out Victor Ramirez by just under 500 votes in the unofficial District 2 race results. In District 3, Olson, a community developer and former board member of county, led Eve Shuman, a former regional manager of Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D). In District 6, Blegay, an attorney, bested five challengers, followed closely by Denise Smith, director of communications for Prince George State Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

Officials finished counting absentee and provisional ballots on Friday afternoon, but candidates have until Monday to request a recount. The winners of the Democratic primaries will face third party and Republican candidates in the fall, but their victories are usually decisive in this deep blue county. The only Republican candidate for county council is Gary Falls, who is running in District 7.

Friday’s wins would be complete a Prince George council that includes six incumbents and a larger contingent of Liberals, some of whom were removed from competitive districts in a controversial redistricting plan devised by the former council. Incumbent Rodney Streeter fell to one such challenger, Krystal Oriadha, in District 7. Olson, who also faced a move to a new district, funded a lawsuit to have the card thrown out. They were among four Progressive Maryland-backed council candidates who scored primary victories, alongside Blegay and District 8 incumbent Edward P. Burroughs III.

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With incumbents Thomas E. Dernoga in District 1 and Jolene Ivey in District 5, longtime members of the council’s liberal minority who ran unopposed for re-election, they would have the numbers needed to form a simple majority in the within the council of eleven people. Last year’s redistricting map passed with just six votes from the council’s then-moderate majority.

“I’m very excited about this, it’s good to be with like-minded colleagues,” Blegay said of the other Progressive Maryland-backed candidates. “The focus now is on building a united agenda.”

Blegay said council members should discuss the needs of their districts before setting an agenda, but the council’s liberal bloc overall wants to increase transparency following last year’s redistricting controversy. She cited the proposed redistricting map, as well as the May appointment of interim council member Johnathan Medlock in District 6, as decisions made without sufficient public participation.

“This is people-oriented advice,” Blegay said.

Incumbents Calvin S. Hawkins II, the current chairman of the board, and Mel Franklin comfortably won in a packed race for the two board seats. District 9 council member and vice president Sydney J. Harrison and Burroughs of District 8 also battled challengers for re-election.

Fisher, Blegay, District 4 government affairs officer Ingrid Harrison, and District 7’s Oriadha, executive director of the nonprofit racial justice nonprofit PG ChangeMakers, are set to join the county council for the first time.

Fisher, a first-generation American whose family hails from Nigeria and India, works as a lawyer and has campaigned on her case as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, where she introduced a bill guaranteeing low-income tenants the right to counsel in eviction cases and served on a task force to address police reform .

“This victory really shines a light on the new generation of leaders rising in Prince George’s County,” Fisher wrote to the Post. “It’s a new day.”

Barring a challenge, Fisher’s narrow lead over fellow lawyer and former state senator Victor Ramirez, in Latino-heavy District 2, would leave the board without a Latino representative for the first time in 18 years.

In an interview on Sunday, Ramirez said he was considering whether to challenge the results. He criticized newly re-elected county executive Angela Alsobrooks for endorsing Fisher and the lack of Latino leadership in the county, where 1 in 5 residents are now Latino. Earlier this year, leaders criticized Prince George’s response to Latin American communities hard hit by the pandemic.

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“I see a very divided county,” Ramirez said. “The underrepresentation of leadership in his county is unacceptable.”

Bgay, a DC Nurses Association staff attorney who served on the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission, pledged in an interview to continue voter engagement efforts and bring quality development to District 6. She said she would seek feedback voters about upcoming development like the Blue Line corridor.

“We need to start talking to people to make sure we’re planning the district properly,” she said.

Olson, executive director of a community development corporation, lives in College Park, Md., and served on the county council for District 3 between 2006 and 2014, where he served as vice chairman of the council and President of Transport, Housing and the Environment. Committee.

“I am grateful to the voters of District 3,” Olson wrote to the Post. “I’m looking forward to getting into the field with transit-oriented, walkable development and solving neighborhood quality of life issues.”

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