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City Council Incumbents Swept Back Into Office in Election Where 11 Percent Turned Out

In Polangin vs. Mellits, Polangin wins with 61 percent; day saw charges of an unethical flier and allegations that a candidate campaigned too close to a polling place.

Bowie voters appear to be quite happy with their municipal government. Only about 11 percent of the city’s eligible voters went to the polls yesterday. And those that voted swept Bowie’s incumbent city council back into office.

It was also a day where and unethical and there was a dispute about how close to the polls one candidate was campaigning.

There are 40,372 eligible voters in the city, of who 4,420 cast ballots.  

The turnout, in part, may be attributed to the fact that six-term Mayor G. Frederick Robinson, who received 4,100 votes, ran unopposed, as did District 1 Council member James Marcos, who received 910 votes. “We’re balancing the budget, we’re providing core services,” said Robinson. “People are satisfied.”

What was the closest race wasn’t as close as some observers thought it might be. In District 2, two-term incumbent Council member won her third term by defeating challenger 932 votes to 587, or about 61 percent to 39 percent.

That was a similar percentage in which Polangin beat Mellits in 2009. Polangin had said before the election she thought that would occur. Upon hearing the news that she won, she thanked her supporters, the voters, her friends and family.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” she said in a room of cheering celebrants at the Bowie Golf Club. “I think it reflects the fact that people trust me and have faith in me. They know I am someone they can talk to as a friend, not just their representative.”

In the At-Large race, voters chose two council members from three candidates. Incumbent Council member , seeking his ninth term, was the top vote getter with 3,372 votes, or 45 percent. District 3 Council member won an At-Large seat with 3,124 votes, or about 42 percent. First time officer seeker James Bell received 995 votes, or 13 percent of the vote.

“These results show that voters trust this Council to see them through this time of national economic turmoil,” said Brady.

In other races:

  • At-Large Council member , seeking the District 3 seat, defeated 78 percent to 21 percent, or 618 to 173 votes.
  • In District 4, incumbent Council member defeated about 69 percent to 31 percent, or 742 votes to 321 votes.

In District 2, a flier was passed out to voters endorsing Robinson and Polangin for re-election.

The headline of the flier stated: “The Prince George’s County Firefighters and Paramedics Association endorses the re-election” of Robinson and Polangin.

Small type at the bottom of the flier states it was funded by the Prince George’s County Professional Firefighters’ PAC and not authorized by any candidate.

While the county’s firefighting force consists of volunteers and professionals, the problem with the flier, according to Mellits, is that it implies all firefighters—including volunteers—support Polangin.

Mellits, a volunteer firefighter, said the flier implies that his fellow volunteer firefighters are endorsing his opponent.

“It's dirty politics,” Mellits said late Tuesday afternoon while campaigning at the Kenhill Center. “It’s unethical to imply that the volunteers have endorsed Diane Polangin when that hasn’t happened. The mayor asked the professional firefighters to do this. He’s running unopposed. Why is he even getting involved in this council race?”

Robinson, also at the Kenhill Center, said the professional firefighter’s PAC was just doing what it has done a number of times, endorsing him. He said he wasn’t aware of how the flier was laid out. Robinson endorsed Polangin.

Polangin said the flier was produced without her involvement. She pointed out that the other side of the flier clearly indicated that the professional firefighters were involved.

Representatives of the professional firefighters PAC were not at the Kenhill Center for comment.

Meanwhile, in District 3, candidate Alegbeleye accused opponent Gardner of campaigning too close to a polling place.

“I’ve never seen what I see today. Rules were violated, I’ve had to call the board of elections many, many times to come out,” Alegbeleye said. “Signs were placed illegally, people were told to put them down, they were not put down.”

City Clerk Pam Fleming said that she and an election judge on site talked to Gardner about staying 100 feet away from the entrance to the polling location. She said that Gardner complied, and that no further action was necessary.

Gardner said the accusations by Alegbeleye stemmed from a simple misunderstanding and chalked them up to a child wearing a Gardner T-shirt near the polling place.  

“So you have a 10-year-old that’s wearing my election T-shirt, so he’s running around not realizing the rules, so I have to continue to—as with any 10-year-old—repeat myself to him,” said Gardner. “So that’s basically it from my understanding of it."

michael mcardle November 10, 2011 at 06:29 PM
An 11% turnout does NOT necessarily presume the community at large is satisfied with their current elected city officials. It may mean they are relatively comfortable with the professional city staff, who actually deserve the lion's share of credit for what is being attributed to the council and mayor who, by the way, by city charter is merely an equal amongst equals. The vitriol with which ANY opposing viewpoints rendered is met is, frankly, a sad commentary on the state of political dialogue in what was once an exemplary political subdivision with regard to its political discourse. That those defending the mayor and some council members feel the need for that level and degree of response should be a warning signal to the residents of Bowie; having said that, Mr. Bell would be wise as the also ran in his race to take his time and avoid further pot stirring until he - and we as a city - have had the opportunity to digest the outcome of this election.
Joe Neighbor November 10, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Michael Mcardle, I read the 11% turnout differently than you do. If the community at large really is unhappy, I assume the turnout would have been greater, and perhaps some of the incumbents would have been replaced. I suspect the low turnout is more about ambivalence than anything, but if people don't show up to vote, they're not letting their opinions count anyway. I do agree that much credit has to be given to the people who do the work, but when it comes to fiscal matters like the new city hall, the mayor and council were certainly more than just figureheads. With regard to the vitriol, I only see one comment on this comment thread that meets that definition.
John November 10, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Well said Michael. Let's not generalize the citizens of Bowie. In my opinion, the low turnout of 11% should be a cause for alarm.
Bowie20715 November 10, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Where's the vitriol, Mr. McArdle? I see a robust discussion of opposing viewpoints. An 11 percent turnout where there are no major issues (the police question) and no competitive races is not a surprise. It took me less than 20 seconds to cast my vote. Mayor Robinson and Jimmy Marcos ran unopposed. The at-large race with two long-time incumbents pitted against an inexperienced twentysomething was not exactly a nail-biter. The margin in the Polangin-- Mellits race was as it was last time around. Essentially, the turnout was concentrated in the older Levitt sections as it always is in an off-year. I agree that the city staff is to be commended as well. But I disagree with the contention that the council are nothing more than figureheads. Robinson has been willing to take a stand (even if it may be unpopular with some) like holding off on the animal shelter because it's fiscally prudent and it's the right thing to do right now. While others duck and cover and do the politically expedient thing, he put his reputation on the line for the police force and the new city hall. He fully deserves credit for those things.
James Bell November 13, 2011 at 05:34 AM
I did not mean disrespect to anyone. I am pointing out the fact as I see them. If you disagree we are all free to feel the way we feel. Rereading my comments, the fact that i am scared if people accept his quote at full face value is the only controversial thing i said. The deficit is a real thing, and I did state there is a reserve, and have made sure to make that clarification every time i spoke about it. The road maintenance as a core service, i guess you can argue it is not, but i feel not having potholes on city streets is a core service. The bins, i have one, I had an old bin and used it. I just do not see the long term environmental or fiscal gains as they are projected. I just do not think a larger bin will get more people recycling. There may be a short term bump, but long term the euphoria of a new bin will wane. For the environment, new materials for the bins, and now a need to dispose of old bins creates an imprint even if they are recycled themselves. My big issue was the cost and timing of the bins. I consistently spoke against any major projects that would force the city into deficit spending. The reality is that tax revenue and operational costs are getting very close. So nearly every project falls into that. The city services are great, and the parks are wonderful. The only core service i see as an issue is road maintenance.

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