HYATTSVILLE – Record turnout for Hyattsville’s May 2 election led to little surprises as three incumbents won their races. However, two new faces will be joining the council from Wards 3 and 5. Approximately 1,575 Hyattsville residents took to the polls last Tuesday to elect the councilmember of their choosing and voice their opinion on […]
HYATTSVILLE – Record turnout for Hyattsville’s May 2 election led to little surprises as three incumbents won their races. However, two new faces will be joining the council from Wards 3 and 5.
Approximately 1,575 Hyattsville residents took to the polls last Tuesday to elect the councilmember of their choosing and voice their opinion on the city’s non-binding referendum.
Among the myriad of decisions the public made, Wards 3 and 5 had to pick between three brand new candidates for the open seats.
Ward 5 Councilwoman Ruth Ann Frazier and Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Paschall both stepped away from the council through not seeking reelection. That gave a path for two new faces to join the seasoned Hyattsville City Council.
“It’s surreal,” said Erica Spell, Ward 5’s new councilwoman. “I’m a bit speechless, but I’m just so thrilled.”
For the first few minutes after the election results were announced, Spell did not quite know what happened; she was not aware she had won the Ward 5 Hyattsville City Council seat.
“It just took me a while to process it all, because I’ve been working day-in and day-out doing everything I could possibly do. So, it took me a while to register,” she said.
Spell won the ward’s seat with 78 total votes – just 27 more votes than second place contender Ben Zeitler. Derrika Durant, the third resident vying for the seat, pulled in four votes.
Both Spell and Carrianna Suiter, the newcomer who won the open Ward 3 seat, were filled with emotions after the election results were announced.
Suiter hugged her husband and accepted congratulations while holding back tears.
“I am so excited and I, honestly, just finishing eight years of federal service, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the next four years of my life than giving it back to this community,” she said.
Suiter raked in 138 votes in the election, surpassing both Vinni Anandham, who received 19 votes, and Ayanna Shivers, who brought home 85.
Suiter spent the last decade working for former President Barack Obama. She said she decided to run for the council after the most recent national election, which she said made it “even more important to engage in a local way.”
That was a common theme among the 12 candidates on the May 2 ballot. This year’s Hyattsville election saw six women throw their hats into the ring, which both Spell and Suiter said was inspiring.
“I feel incredibly empowered by the strong slate of candidates that Ward 3 brought forth and I certainly am looking forward to bringing that work to the council,” Suiter said.
The May 2 election also saw the reelection of three sitting council members, Ward 1’s Bart Lawrence, Ward 2’s Robert Croslin and Ward 4’s Edouard Haba.
Ward 1, though loud and contested, shaped up to be quite the run-away victory for Lawrence.
“I am surprised. I had no idea. I just had no idea,” Lawrence said. “I had no idea that that many people would come out to vote for me.”
Twenty-four percent of the ward showed up and showed out for the election. Contenders for the seat included Lawrence, who won with 466 votes, Talib Karim, who gathered 168, and Ian Herron with 50 total.
The Ward 1 race was perhaps the most contentious of the five races, with numerous councilmembers backing Lawrence and Mayor Candace Hollingsworth herself getting involved in campaigning for the incumbent.
“I ran the first time and it was pretty much just me. It was a totally different race. This time I had great friends, incredible support. It was just amazing,” he said. “I think this will make me a better council member and things will be better moving forward.”
Croslin ran unopposed in Ward 2, though there were 20 write-in votes in the race that included multiple votes for Ray Caron and Emily Strab. One voter even said “not Croslin, anyone but Croslin.”
Still, Croslin brought in 352 votes from the 15 percent of his ward that voted.
“I feel good,” he said. “It was good to stand out there and talk to all my neighbors, and feeling the support from my community was great. It was wonderful.”
Haba said he felt similarly, though his ward only saw an 8 percent turnout. Haba won his reelection with 106 votes to his opponent, Shirley Ann Bender’s, 16 total votes.
“I’m feeling happy, excited and encouraged because this is a statement that what we have been doing is working and residents are listening to what we do and they’re watching what we do,” he said. “It says we’re on the right track, but we need to keep working.”
Haba also called the election a “double-win” for him because of the overwhelming response to the city’s referendum question.
With 15 percent of the city’s 10,000 residents taking to the polls, most races were handily decided. However one part of the multi-part referendum question was decided by just one vote.
The referendum question focused on the size and makeup of the council and whether the city’s residents wanted to see the size or composition change in the coming years.
Residents came out in force against any reduction in size of the council, voting 947 to 609 against question one, which asked if the council should consider reducing the number.
For Part A of the second question, which asked if there should be a reduction to one councilmember for each of the five wards, 581 voted in favor, 768 voted against. Similarly, in Part B, which suggested reducing the number of members per ward and reducing the number of wards, residents voted 121 for and 1,186 against.
Part C suggested reducing the number to one councilmember per ward, but increasing the number of wards. That question had 403 in favor, but 942 opposed. Part D asked if there should be a reduction in wards, but allow for two councilmembers per ward. That question was also opposed with 986 against and 358 for.
“I was opposed to the questions from the beginning,” Haba said. “The way it’s written, I didn’t think it was fair and I said that to residents.”
Haba said the questions were one-sided and leaned only toward a reduction, when he believes the council’s issues can be solved by agreeing to “work together better as a team.”
The last question on the ballot asked if the city should have “one or more councilmembers elected at large by all the city voters.” The “ayes” for this ballot question won out by just one vote, 723-722.