- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The five Democrats and two Republicans looking to replace two-term Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry spent primary day shaking hands and looking for last-minute votes.

The candidate expected to win the Democratic Party nod yesterday State's Attorney Jack Johnson faced a field of County Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp, Major Riddick, the Rev. C. Anthony Muse and state Delegate Rushern L. Baker III.

In a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 5-1, the two Republicans seeking nomination for county executive council member Audrey E. Scott of Bowie and J. Mitchell Brown of Upper Marlboro campaigned hard to get their message out.

Mr. Curry, forced out of office by term limits, had declined to endorse any of the Democratic candidates.

The decision was left up to voters who went to the polls yesterday.

"We need a leader who can make difficult decisions, and Baker can do that," said Hellmut Lotz, who cast his ballot at Hollywood Elementary School in College Park.

Voting at Hollywood Elementary was sparse but steady, said Dick Angus, 71, Republican chief judge of the polling site and community-service volunteer. By 1:45 p.m., about 100 Democrats and 19 Republicans had voted, and the usual noon election rush was not as anticipated, Mr. Angus said.

He noted that fewer poll monitors had dropped by to ensure that polling site was operating fairly, attributing the decrease in visits to competitive Democratic nominations.

Jerry Anzulovic, 62, who ran unopposed for the at-large seat on the Democratic Central Committee, was encouraging voters at Hollywood Elementary to elect Democrats.

"My goal is to never allow any Republican, Green Party member, Libertarian, or any other 'ism' to be elected to anything," Mr. Anzulovic said.

Mr. Anzulovic and Mr. Lotz were among a handful of Democratic supporters on hand to inform voters of some of the smaller contested offices in this year's election.

"Some people are so confused and undecided. If they don't see a candidate's campaign out here, they might vote for someone else," said Mr. Lotz.

Voter traffic at Springhill Lake Elementary was slow as well, according to the site's Democratic official, Chief Judge Bill Finebloom. By 3 p.m., about 120 residents had voted.

The county yesterday for the first time used new electronic touch-screen voting machines, which operate by cards that poll workers give to each voter. The cards feature ballot selections in English and Spanish.

Voters were in and out of the booths in two to five minutes because of the new machines, according to poll judges at Hollywood, Springhill and Glenarden Woods elementary schools. Only one machine at Springhill had a technical problem, but Mr. Finebloom said that owing to the small crowd, the problem did not slow the voting.

Election officials in Prince George's County reported that 56,075 registered voters had cast their ballots by 3 p.m. yesterday.

One of the better turnout spots was Glenarden Woods Elementary, where about 300 persons had voted by 3:30 p.m.

"We expect a lot more once the work crews come in at 5 or 6 [p.m.]," said Debra Robinson, 47, the Republican chief judge for the site.

The crowd was good for a primary election, said Jean Keys, 62, the site's Democratic chief judge. She estimated that about 98 percent of the voters at the site were Democrats.

County executive candidates all agreed that the three main issues are the floundering public school system, rated as among the worst in Maryland; the police department, which the federal government is investigating on charges of brutality; and the slow economy.

Mr. Estepp, 61, said he stood the best chance of winning because he has lived in the county most of his life and was fire chief, the county's first public-safety director, has been a County Council member for eight years, and is a past chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

"It's not about race," said Mr. Estepp, the only white candidate in the Democratic contest.

He had won the endorsement of labor unions and the Fraternal Order of Police, which feuded with Mr. Johnson.

The FOP did not like the fact that Mr. Johnson criticized police for their criminal investigations and blamed police for failed indictments and prosecutions. He had made repeated efforts to prosecute six police officers on misconduct charges. All six were acquitted, and Mr. Johnson blamed the judges.

Mr. Johnson was elected the county's first black state's attorney in 1994 and 1998 as the county population shifted from majority white to majority black.

Mr. Riddick, who celebrated his 52nd birthday Monday, had never before run for public office. His campaign for county executive focused on his expertise as budget director, head of housing and community development, and the county's chief administrative officer, subordinate only to the county executive.

His appointments came from then-County Executive Parris N. Glendening, who was elected governor in 1994 and took Mr. Riddick with him to Annapolis as his chief of staff.

Mr. Muse gained public attention in 1994, when he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. After losing a bid for the state Senate in 1998, his attentions swung to enlarging the Gibbons United Methodist Church in Brandywine.

Methodist district officials had criticized his funding procedures, so Mr. Muse took most of the congregation with him to form the Ark of Safety Christian Church in Oxon Hill, which now has more than 4,000 members.

Mr. Baker, 43, the youngest county executive candidate, was elected to Maryland's House of Delegates in 1994 and quickly became chairman of the county delegation.

There, he led the fight to replace the county's controversial, elected school board with an appointed board. Most candidates want to return to an elected board. Mr. Baker also was largely responsible for obtaining $350 million in state funds for the county's schools over the next six years.

One of the more competitive races in Prince George's County was the sheriff's primary between incumbent Alonzo D. Black, 57, and his challenger, Cpl. Michael Jackson, 38. Sheriff Black became the first black person in that 300-year-old office when he was elected in 1998.

Deputy Sheriff Jackson, who is president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association, said he planned to run for sheriff when he joined the force in 1989.

Phillip Caston contributed to this report.

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