BY ROSANNA LANDIS WEAVER — Hyattsville City Councilmembers Patrick Paschall and Joseph Solomon, both elected for the first time in 2013, have filed to run for higher office in the June 24 Democratic primary.
The implications for their future service to the city vary considerably. Paschall, who is running for an unpaid spot on the Democratic Central Committee, would not be required to leave the council; Solomon, who is running for the Maryland House of Delegates, would, because the state constitution says that “no person shall hold, at the same time, more than one office of profit.”
If Solomon (Ward 5) is elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in November, he would need to resign his council role. And that, according to City Clerk Laura Reams’ reading of the city charter, means a special election to fill the remainder of his term.
Under the city charter if a vacancy is created “by reason of death, refusal or inability to act, disqualification, resignation or removal beyond the corporate limits of the City,” then a special election must be held within 75 days.
The city last held a special election in July 2011, and the approximate cost at that time was $5,000. However, said Reams, “There are a variety of factors that can impact the cost of a special election, such as the adoption of any new policies including early voting or same day registration.” She adds that the 2011 special election took place shortly after a regular election, which limited the need for training costs. Therefore, she expects that if a special election was required in this case it could be somewhat more costly.
But Solomon points out that since he was elected to finish the remaining two years of Nicole Hinds Mofor’s term, his term ends with the next city election in May 2015. Mofor officially resigned in February 2013, and a separate provision of the charter notes that a resignation within 150 days of a normally scheduled election meant the seat became part of the May 2013 election. Solomon believes that depending on timing his council seat might fall under a similar exception.
If elected as state delegate in November, Solomon would not take office until the following January, leaving a relatively short period of time prior to the regularly scheduled 2015 city election.
Solomon has an uphill battle running against five other candidates in the newly created District 47A, including incumbent Michael Summers (who was elected as one of District 47’s three representatives before the 2012 redistricting that split it into 47A and 47B) and longtime Mount Rainier city councilman Jimmy Tarlau, who has the support of organized labor.
For now Solomon is focused on the day to day matters of campaigning over a large district that includes only a small portion of West Hyattsville as well as Cheverly, Landover Hills, Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Mount Rainier, Brentwood and Cottage City.
Most of Hyattsville is covered by District 22, and the city’s two incumbents, Del. Anne Healey and Del. Alonzo Washington, are running for re-election. Also in the race for the three District 22 seats are Del. Tawanna Gaines, also an incumbent, and Rushern L. Baker IV, son of the Prince George’s County Executive.
Solomon said the decision to run was made with great deliberation shortly before the February 25 filing deadline. “You’re always thinking about how you can better serve your community,” he notes, “What I’m interested in here in Hyattsville and in Annapolis as a delegate is bringing development to the areas around the Metros.”
Solomon informed the rest of the council of his plans in an email that week. At the February 26 meeting, councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4) announced that he would be campaign manager, and invited council members and city staff to attend the formal kickoff of the campaign on February 28 at Victory House in Palmer Park. The event included a speech on Solomon’s behalf by Bladensburg mayor Walter James, and elected officials in attendance included Board of Education member Amber Waller.
For his part, Haba notes that Solomon is “a colleague and a friend … I know what he can do. I think he’s a good candidate.”
Haba believes it would be in the interest of the city to have Solomon serve on the state delegation. “We might get some traction and some focus on the West Hyattsville development process,” he said.
In a race that will have less of an impact on the city, Paschall filed his candidacy for Democratic Central Committee for Legislative District 22 for the June 24 primary election.
The committee is the governing body of the county’s Democratic party, representing it on the Maryland State Democratic Committee. This year it is made up of one at-large position for District 22, for which Greenbelt’s Nicole Williams is running unopposed, and two other positions for which there are four candidates. Since it has no direct legislative role, the unpaid position does not require elected officials to leave their current roles.
“My obligations to the city of Hyattsville takes precedent over my obligation to the Democratic Committee, but I don’t think the two are in conflict with each other,” says Paschall. “I’m still going to attend all the council meetings. That is my priority.”
He acknowledges that the time commitment was an issue to consider. “That was a conversation I had to have with my family, about whether or not I have the time available.”
Paschall is one of two Hyattsville candidates who have filed to run for the Democratic committee position. Denise Riley has served on the committee for six years and has filed to run again. In addition to Paschall and Riley, Greenbelt mayor Emmet Jordan and Hosea Chew of Lanham are also running for the two open positions. Paschall and Jordan have the official support of the state delegation.
The Hyattsville Life & Times will have additional coverage of the races, including candidate statements, in an upcoming issue.