With dozens of newly elected officials being sworn in next week a lot of debate has started to center around who will lead many of our county’s legislative bodies. Starting next week the Prince George’s County Council, Board of Education, House Delegation, and Senate Delegation will elect their leaderships for the coming year.
The County Council
The battle for chair of the Prince George’s County Council has pitted Ingrid Turner against current-Vice Chair Andrea Harrison in the race for five votes. According to un-official tallies Harrison has the backing of Mary Lehman (District 1), Eric Olson (District 3), and Mel Franklin (District 9). Ingrid Turner on the other hand has the backing of Will Campos (District 2), Karen Toles (District 6), Obie Patterson (District 8), and Leslie Johnson (District 7) despite the fact that many don’t know if Johnson will even show up for the vote let alone the swearing-in. If current trends prevail Turner, who has refused to comment on if Johnson should take the council seat she won in the November election, should be elected the next chair when the council meets next week. Turner has been under fire for her silence on Leslie Johnson after she was indicted by federal authorities along with her husband Executive Jack Johnson. She also has refused to address rumors she bribed Johnson for her vote with an offer to chair the powerful Planning and Zoning Committee which oversees much of the economic development in the county. Some are hoping that a deal would be worked out whereby Andrea Harrison will be allowed to assume the chairmanship of the council with Turner becoming vice chair in order to avoid what could be an embarrassing vote allowing an indicted councilwoman to cast the deciding vote on the council’s leadership.
The Board of Education
Incumbent Chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs who was recently reelected to the School Board has led the education body for the last three years and it appears she desires to continue to do so. The problem is that much of her base of support over the last four years either retired or were defeated in last months election. Jacobs who normally with on split matters with Rosalind Johnson, Heather Illif, Pat Fletcher, Ron Watson, and Owen Johnson saw three of her peers decide not to run for reelection and Pat Fletcher soundly defeated at the polls. Among the incumbents returning for a second term Jacobs has often been on the opposite side of many of them, Donna Beck, Amber Waller, and former Student Board Member Edward Burroughs who won the District 8 seat last month. It is anybody’s bet who will be the next leader of the Board of Education but good money has it that Verjeana will be reelected, even if by a small margin, as she faces a list of potential challengers including Amber Waller and Carolyn Boston.
The Prince George’s County House Delegation
Delegation Chairwoman Melony Griffith unseated Delegate Barbara Frush two years ago for the right to lead the state’s second largest delegation and when you talk to most of her peers she seems to be doing a pretty good job. That bodes well for her as she mounts a campaign to be returned to the chair for a second term. As of today no one else seems positioned to knock her off. Delegate Griffith also chairs the house subcommittee that deals with pensions. As chair of both groups she will face the dual job of helping the state resolve its large unfunded pension liability while at the same time leading a delegation that expects Gov. O’Malley to pay up for the 87% plus vote victory delivered for him in his bid for reelection.
Incoming County Executive Rushern Baker who like just about all other executives throughout the state will face a huge budge gap despite having promised not to furlough teachers or public safety employees to balance the budget. In order to deliver on that promise the only two other options appear to be more state aid (which will be very hard to come by) or raising taxes which could be rejected if they are put on the ballot. Things will only get more fuzzy if Senate President Mike Miller finally gets his way to move part of (if not all) teacher pensions on the county budget line. Delegate Griffith is at the center of two of the most pressing yet difficult to fix issues the state will face, state aide to counties and pension reform.