- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Of the five seats on the Charles County commissioners’ board, the only one guaranteed to be occupied by a newly elected face later this year belongs to District 3, where four Waldorf Democrats are actively campaigning to fill the vacancy created by current board Vice President Rueben B. Collins II’s decision to run for board president.
With no incumbent running for re-election, the District 3 race feels particularly open-ended, and teacher Amanda Stewart, social worker Kamilah Way, businessman Robert Taylor and activist Jim Easter each offers backgrounds that they feel best prepare them to represent the greater Waldorf area.
The first candidate to file in District 3, Stewart said she has found support among county residents frustrated by school overcrowding and land use policies favoring sprawl development. She also has picked up endorsements from the Education Association of Charles County and the Charles County Fraternal Order of Police.
“Everything has been going well. I’m really excited. We have a lot of support from residents all across the county,” Stewart said. “We feel very strong, and we are just continuing to meet a lot of the residents and going around and listening to the concerns to make sure that when I’m elected, I have firsthand knowledge of the top concerns of the residents.”
In addition to traffic congestion and overcrowded schools, Stewart said the issue she hears about most often is the perceived lack of transparency and civility in local government.
“The overarching theme I hear from all residents is they are really concerned about their quality of life,” she said.
Stewart is reporting more than $6,300 in campaign contributions in the most recent fundraising cycle ending May 20, including $3,000 she donated herself, and $50 and $40 donations from current commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) and Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), respectively.
But Stewart also has spent nearly all of her campaign funds on fundraisers, signs and advertising and ended the period with $560 in her account.
Way raised by far the most money in the district with $13,800 in donations, including a $4,000 contribution from the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors, $50 from Collins’ law firm and $40 from Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D). Way also reported personally spending $5,500 on her campaign.
Of her $7,800 in campaign donations, $1,950 has been spent, but Way said she expects “some major upcoming spending” in the home stretch to the June 24 primary.
“We’ve been getting the message out that the citizens truly deserve someone who is positive, who is solution-focused and who is a consensus builder,” Way said.
Taylor’s campaign has been fined $130 for failing to file finance reports for the more recent fundraising period, but he previously reported raising $1,800 between Feb. 21 and April 8, most of which he has spent on his campaign staff, website and laptop.
He admitted being disappointed with the totals, but describing Stewart and Way, respectively, as a “respected schoolteacher” and “compassionate social worker,” Taylor nonetheless believe his background in business makes him the best choice to represent District 3.
“I have a stronger message, and that’s why I believe the voters are going to come out and vote for Robert Taylor,” he said. “We need more commerce. We need more tax revenue down here. We need to expand our commercial tax base. The person most likely to encourage that to happen and promote it — would it be the businessman, school teacher or social worker? The businessman is instinctively going to favor business issues. The choice seems pretty clear to me.”
The owner of her own consulting firm, Way has pointed out that she is also a businesswoman in addition to being a social worker.
A longtime activist who has run for office in the past, Easter feels he brings the most “comprehensive name recognition” to the race.
“That stems from long-term contributions to the citizens that work here. The other three have very little name recognition,” Easter said.
He said Stewart, who teaches in Prince George’s County but graduated from Thomas Stone High School, “has no clue about the Charles County public school system.” As for Taylor and Way, he claimed they have “absolutely no experience” working in the community.
Easter has largely self-financed his own campaign, donating $1,100 of the $1,600 he reported receiving between April 9 and May 20. A relative donated the remaining $500.
Easter spent close to $2,000 on signs and advertising during the period.
“Those who contribute huge sums of money to your campaign, you owe them once you arrive in the public office,” Easter reasoned.
Waldorf resident John Ashburn also is running as a Democrat for District 3 commissioner but has not been seen at public forums or events, and has not returned messages seeking comment on his candidacy.
Hughesville resident Steve Mattingly is running in the district as a Republican. He has no primary opponent.