- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Prince George’s County officials have scheduled special primary and general elections to replace former County Council member Leslie E. Johnson.

Candidates will vie in primaries Sept. 20, and a general election Oct. 18 to replace Johnson, who resigned after pleading guilty in June to witness- and evidence-tampering charges. Her last day on the council was Monday. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 15.

Johnson, a Democrat, initially planned to stay in office until her sentencing but resigned early under pressure from colleagues. County law requires that primaries be held 45 to 60 days after she leaves office, and that a general election take place within 90 days of the vacancy opening.

“We want to make sure that this goes smoothly and quickly,” said Scott L. Peterson, spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a Democrat who also urged Johnson to resign immediately.

Prospective candidates from Johnson’s district may file beginning Wednesday and have until Aug. 23 to do so. The county will hold Democratic and Republican primaries Sept. 20, although a Republican is unlikely to mount a serious challenge in the predominantly Democratic county.

Several Democrats who lost to Johnson in last year’s six-candidate primary are expected to run, including Arthur Turner, Venus Bethea and runner-up Derrick Leon Davis. Johnson won the primary by 9 percentage points and won unopposed in November’s general election.

She was arrested in November and pleaded guilty in June to charges that she flushed a $100,000 check down a toilet and hid nearly $80,000 in her underwear as federal investigators closed in on her husband, then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat.

Council members criticized her for not resigning immediately after her guilty plea and have argued that her resistance has slowed the learning process for her eventual successor while temporarily robbing her district of complete representation.

Council members voted in December - just weeks after Johnson’s arrest - to bar her from serving on committees, and forced her last month to relinquish much of her county-issued equipment, including a vehicle, phone and computer.

“She’s technically now a convicted felon,” council member William A. Campos, a Democrat, said last month. “We need to start getting ready for whoever it is that’s going to take her place.”

The County Council will spend this month in recess, which Mr. Peterson said will limit distractions to candidates and better allow council members to follow the race.

“It’s important to do this now, so that the new council member for the district can get right to work,” he said.

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