HYATTSVILLE – New faces could be sitting at the Hyattsville City Council dais come May, and the election cycle is just starting to heat up.
On Monday, the Hyattsville elections committee held a candidate information meeting – the first of its kind in Hyattsville – to help potential candidates navigate through the city’s rules and regulations for running in an election. The meeting also helped candidates wade through the new campaign finance reforms passed by the council in 2016.
“We wanted to have a few nights dedicated to facilitating going through these forms and the financial requirement changes, just so that everyone had all the information they could possibly need available to them,” said Nicola Konigkramer, the city’s election coordinator.
As of Tuesday, the city already has one contested race in Ward 1, as well as at least one candidate registered in Wards 2, 3 and 5. Councilmen Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) and Robert Croslin (Ward 2) have both put their names in to seek reelection.
The Monday meeting brought together the election committee, the ethics committee and four current council members to act as resources for the possible candidates. During the meeting, Councilmembers Shani Warner, Thomas Wright and Joseph Solomon, as well as Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, offered their perspectives and advice to the future leaders of Hyattsville. None of their seats are up for election during this cycle.
“I only wish there was a thing like this when I ran,” Wright said, noting that he wished he could have entered the process with more information. “I probably wouldn’t have come into it so cold the way I was. I’m still learning. Two year later I’m still trying to figure it out.”
Each of the current members of the council offered advice about the consideration process, noting that being on the council requires a large time commitment that includes more than just meetings.
Koningkramer also walked the four interested residents who attended the meeting through the different responsibilities of a candidate of the city, noting important dates. Candidate registration opened on Feb. 27 and will close at 5 p.m. on March 31.
To run, candidates must fill out a qualification form (to verify their residency in their ward), submit a financial disclosure statement, open and have proof of a campaign bank account and appoint a treasurer.
“We do have a provision that if you want to act your own campaign treasurer, you cannot anticipate more than $1,500 worth of contributions. So if you do anticipate more contributions than that then please go ahead and appoint a treasurer for your campaign,” Koningkramer said.
Warner noted that, although in past citywide elections some candidates raised five figures to run in the race, Hyattsville does not typically have expensive races. She said Hyattsville campaigns are more about outreach and getting to know your neighbors.
“This is not a big money enterprise,” Warner said. “This is fundamentally about you going out and talking to people who are likely voters. Money doesn’t translate into votes.”
Solomon echoed those sentiments and said candidates should really invest time in canvassing their neighborhoods and really getting to know their community and neighbors.
“One of the things that encouraged me to get out and run was really the opportunity to get to know neighbors. So I would say as you’re out there knocking on doors and getting to know people, make sure you really take the opportunity to absorb your community,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to share your vision. I view it as a dialogue.”
However, Hollingsworth cautioned entering the race thinking there would be no financial strains. She said a campaign does cost money and candidates will have to set their own budgets.
“I do believe that money is not the end-all, be-all in the elections, but it costs money to run an election and it costs money to communicate to voters,” she said. “So I caution against putting a taboo on raising money.”
Still, Hollingsworth and the current council members said the most important thing to keep in mind when running for council is your purpose for running.
“Ask yourself why you are running and have a really good answer to that question,” Warner said. “If you have a concrete reason and something that you’re trying to accomplish, that’s key.”
In addition, Solomon advised the future candidates to remember that their opponent in the race also has a personal vision and is also running to create a better Hyattsville.
“It is going to be a campaign of ideas where you are competing your perception and perspective on how things go against another candidate,” he said. “Don’t take the race to heart in that sense of making it personal with the individual that you’re running against. The reason that people decide to run is because they want to do something good.”
A second candidate orientation meeting will be held on March 26 at 10 a.m.
The citywide election will be held on May 2, though Hyattsville will have two early voting days on April 22, from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., and April 29, from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. The latter will be held during the city’s annual anniversary carnival and the same day as the celebratory parade, so parking and road access near the polls will be limited.
Polls on May 2 will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.