With just under a week until November’s election, the Montgomery County Green Party registered three write-in candidates to run for seats on the County Council, offering voters another choice at the polls.
Woody Caceres, Esther Lazarowitz and Howard Zuses registered with the Maryland Board of Elections prior to the Oct 16 deadline as write-in candidates in County Council Districts 2, 3 and 4 respectively. All three, who join at-large Green Party candidate Tim Willard, will challenge sitting council members, with Caceres facing Craig Rice (D), Lazarowitz facing Sidney Katz (D), and Zuses facing Nancy Navarro (D).
Caceres also faces Republican nominee Ed Amatetti.
Under Maryland law, candidates can have write-in status if they file a Certificate of Candidacy, Statement or Organization, and financial disclosure statements by the Wednesday before the election if their campaign expenditures are less than $51. If a candidate’s expenditures exceed $51, the deadline is seven days before the election.
Woody Caceres (District 2)
Caceres, 30, gave securing a better future for his kids and the next generation as a reason for entering the race for the County Council.
“From the perspective of a parent, for me it’s important to do what I can in nurturing the generation that will determine the future [and] also empowering the people in politics that are being neglected, abandoned and not represented by the system,” he said.
Caceres, who lives in Gaithersburg and works in construction, explained that he plans to pursue policies to create a sustainable environment and improve the county’s education system.
Working as a hip-hop artist, he plans to expand arts education, saying, “Art has a deep connection to how your consciousness develops.”
“The current curriculum doesn’t seem to be inclusive across the board,” he added. “It seems to be the people inside, that are making the decisions, conform to what they know instead of allowing themselves to expand their view and absorb knowledge from the outside to continue growing and developing as an educator,”
From his observations, Caceres explained that police misconduct tends to go unreported in District 2 – recalling an incident when he was detained, pushed to the ground and searched for having a suspended driver’s license due to late child-support payments.
“Seeing [police officers] go unchecked and having free reign to do as they please without any checks or balances,” is an issue, Caceres said, he would pursue if elected.
Esther Lazarowitz (District 3)
As an educator, Lazarowitz thought of the future for the county’s children when entering the race for a County Council seat, adding that she “has a hard time looking them in the eye and giving them faith that our local government is working for us.”
“Something must be done to have some our basic concerns and needs addressed,” she added. “Because of the overcrowding of our schools and our area, we have a hard time getting clean water, clean air, and good food to eat.”
Lazarowitz, 56, a para-educator who teaches students with learning disabilities, said she plans on addressing educational costs, school overcrowding, classroom staffing, and other educational inequities.
Outside of education, her other priorities include implementing a living wage, expanding bicycle infrastructure, encouraging organic farming, improving hazardous waste management, and incentivizing environmental sustainability in residential homes.
Concerned about property tax increases, the Derwood resident said she would “gladly forgo a salary for a year,” if elected, adding “that’s how strongly I feel about lowering property taxes and pushing back developers.”
Howard Zuses (District 4)
Owning a farm in Ashton, Zuses, 61, said he is running for the County Council, primarily following his experiences with the county government.
“As a taxpayer, as a citizen, and as a resident of the county, and as someone who’s done business here … I just think we can do a better job,” Zuses said in a phone interview. “We’ve got essentially a one-party government in Montgomery County, and I don’t think that’s healthy for democracy.”
During his tenure as a business manager at the Sandy Spring Friends School, a Quaker private school in Sandy Spring, Zuses said he discovered the school spent extra money to build additional facilities, adding “a lot of it had to do with the way regulations are enforced” rather than the regulations themselves.
Elaborating on the experience, Zuses said the county’s dual-permitting system, in which the Department of Permitting Services handles building codes while the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission handles plumbing, forces residents to “pull separate permits in separate locations from separate viewers.”
“My solution would be to bring together the people who are affected on both sides of things, both the people who work for the county currently and [are] responsible for enforcement … and for the people on the construction side,” he added.
As a farmer, the longtime Ashton resident explained that the county could do more to help the local agricultural industry, saying, “There needs to be a process by which everybody recognizes [that] that it’s harder to do agriculture in Maryland.”
Zuses added that he also plans to address transportation and education, saying the gridlock remains and decades-old school issues remain unaddressed.
“My basic approach is to say, ‘I don’t have specific policies that I’m running to implement.’ My approach is to say, ‘I think we’re not paying enough attention to one another,’” he explained. “What we need to be doing is we need to be bringing together folks to have honest forthright discussions about what needs to happen and how it can happen.”
Caceres, Lazarowtiz and Zuses will also join District 18 House of Delegates candidate Jon Cook and District 19 State Senate candidate David Jeang as a series of Green Party candidates across the County.
The election is Nov. 6.