TAKOMA PARK – Voters in Takoma Park elected a new City Council on a rainy Tuesday evening selecting from eleven candidates to elect a mayor and six Council members.
In the City’s most competitive race, Ward 2 candidate Cindy Dyballa prevailed against two other candidates after two rounds of voting.
“I’m impressed with the turnout, I think it’s fabulous that more people are coming out to vote in local elections,” Dyballa said shortly after being declared the winner.
Dyballa received 410 votes over Ashleigh Nugent who received 339 and Joe Edgell who received 125 to succeed outgoing Council member Tim Male in a race that touched on the city’s most pressing issues including housing and the Takoma Junction development.
Wards 5 and 6 each had two candidates. Current Council member Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) received 133 votes to survive a challenge by Amee Bearne who received 84 votes. Talisha Searcy defeated Jason Small 212-87 votes to succeed current councilmember Fred Schultz.
“I put a lot into this race but when I look forward, I think it’s going to be a great council,” Smith said.
The remaining three council races as well as the mayor had unopposed, incumbent candidates. Ward 1 Council member Peter Kovar, Ward 4 Council member Terry Seamens and Mayor Kate Stewart were reelected.
Kacy Kostiuk, who ran to succeed outgoing Ward 3 Council member Rizzy Qureshi, won unopposed.
Takoma Park uses ranked choice voting which allows voters to rank their preferred choice in races with multiple candidates. If no candidate reaches a 50 percent threshold, the votes for the lowest ranking candidate are redistributed according to the second choice listed on the ballot.
A variety of issues motivated voters to cast ballots.
Current County Council member and Ward 1 resident Hans Reimer (D-At Large) said he was encouraged by the changes taking place in the city.
“There’s a lot of change happening in Takoma Park and on the one hand it’s exciting the quality of restaurants has improved,” he said. “Thanks to rent control is home to great number of low income residents and so trying find ways to support the low income community while being fiscally responsible is the on going challenge.”
The City’s Takoma Junction development was a common issue among voters.
“Since I live near the co-op, there’s a lot of issues with the development and traffic and how big that’s going to be,” said David Band, a Ward 3 resident who supported Kacy Kostriuk. “Whether it’s going to be some kind of sustainable thing with making traffic impossible and having some reasonable open space for the community.”
The council’s recent decision to modify the law prohibiting the use of bikes on sidewalks raised concerns among voters.
“I’m really concerned about safe roadways and Takoma Park doing a better job of promoting bicycling and safe pedestrian traffic,” said Sharon Mogrum, a Ward 3 resident who also supported Kacy Kostiuk. “I’m very disappointed in the council closing the safe passage for adults on the side walk.”
“There are some very unsafe places and I really hope that with some people on the council that they’ll relook at that,” she added.
Denis McDonough, a Ward 2 resident who supported Dyballa, explained he was concerned about the presence of potential medical marijuana dispensary in the city.
“Across the street from the [Takoma] junction there’s some discussion of placing a medical marijuana dispensary, which I find highly objectionable because that’s where my kids take the bus to school,” McDonough said. “I’m going to do everything I can and to pressure my local politicians to make sure that they oppose that idea.”
Code enforcement and housing affordability were also decisive issues for voters.
“I think rents are getting a lot higher and I want to stay in Takoma Park and I want to have a council member who’s going to advocate for affordable housing for low and middle income folks,” said Claire Fenton, a Ward 5 resident who supported Amee Bearne. “There’s a lot of trash on my block that doesn’t get collected … it makes it unpleasant and unsafe because the sidewalks aren’t always walkable.”
Chief election judge Brian Earnst said the polls did not experience any significant issues with two hours remaining before the closing.
Earnst did not have the exact turnout as of the end of the vote count but said the exact amount will be released later.