- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Two former members of the Prince George's County school board that was ousted by the Maryland legislature earlier this year have won their primaries and will run for office in November.
Marilynn Bland will try for the District 9 County Council seat held previously by M.H. Jim Estepp, while Doyle Niemann is running unopposed for a state delegate's seat from the newly created District 47.
Mrs. Bland, who was elected twice to the school board before it was dismantled by legislation in May, served as a legislative aide to council member Isaac Gourdine for four years before he died in a car accident on the Capital Beltway. She was with him in the car but escaped with minor injuries.
"I want to carry on his legacy of serving people, but this is what he would have wanted even if he had been here," she said yesterday. "The people in this county need someone who cares for the community and I am there for the people, no matter what the issue is."
Mr. Niemann, a vocal supporter of Iris T. Metts, the county schools' chief executive officer, is in the running for one of the three delegate positions created earlier this year in the new District 47. The three Democratic candidates from the district have no Republican challengers.
Mr. Niemann, who works as assistant state's attorney in the county, said he made the decision to run long before the board was ousted. He said education, along with criminal and juvenile justice, would be his focus in the legislature.
One other board member, Angie Como, attempted to run unsuccessfully for a state delegate nomination from District 21.
Some in the county say the two former board members' victories is an indication voters still trust the members of the old school board. In April, the state legislature voted to oust the elected board and replaced it with an appointed one. The action was prompted by the elected board's long-running feud with Mrs. Metts, the superintendent. The shake-up was opposed by county residents who tried, unsuccessfully, to block the decision with a referendum.
The support for former board members at the primaries "shows that people really trusted them and were not going to just sit back and let them go," said Robert Callahan, former board member from Bowie, who himself considered running for state delegate this year. "Three of the members ran for office and two got in. It begs the question of whether the board takeover was justified," he said.
Mr. Niemann, however, said he would not read too much into his and Mrs. Bland's success, apart from name recognition. He also pointed out that Mrs. Bland had "consistently abused her office" while she was on the school board.
In May 2000, days before the school board primaries, Mrs. Bland mailed out a newsletter to her constituents, spending $7,800 from the board account. Days before she lost her position as school board member this year, she once again mailed out newsletters to her constituents, spending nearly $10,000 of board money.
She did not state her intention of running for county council in the newsletter, but some constituents criticized her for spending taxpayer money for personal gain. The newsletter was dated for June, and the board's last day was May 31.
An audit of school board members' expenses in 2000 found she charged a trip to Disney World with her family to her board account.
After the accident with Mr. Gourdine, Mrs. Bland did not attend any board meetings in the final two months before they were dissolved. However, in Tuesday's primary, she beat out four other members of the Democratic Party for the nomination.
Mrs. Bland said her victory at the primary proved people believed in her. "When I serve them, I serve them well and people want Marilynn Bland to continue," she said.
She added she would continue to push for education if she were elected in November. "Education has, and will always be, my priority. Throughout my campaign that is the only subject that came up."
In November, Mrs. Bland will be challenged by Republican nominee Karen K. Griffith, who was running unopposed in the primary. Ms. Griffith won 1,100 votes in the Republican primary while Mrs. Bland garnered 4,558 votes, or 33. 65 percent, in the Democratic primary.


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