Since the dust has sufficiently settled after the 2011 Hyattsville City Council and mayoral elections, there are a few things that stood out in this election.
The first would have to be the abysmal voter turnout. Hyattsville’s voter turnout has always been suspect, but this year’s elections were far worse than in years past. Some look to the big mayoral race, and how many viewed it to be over from day one. But this in my opinion isn’t the heart of the matter. I think that the real reason for low turnout is the lack of excitement about the election.
First, the election itself is nonpartisan, and therefore candidates don’t have to side with a political party. I think if candidates were required to declare a party, it would at least start to distinguish candidates from one another in overall views, and maybe even energize party members to come out and vote, purely out of party pride.
Another thing that might make the election more exciting is an actual debate. The candidate’s forum, while it serves a purpose, is more of a question and answer session where all the candidates basically repeated the same answer. If a debate was established between candidates for all contested races, voters might be able to distinguish between candidates and find someone that truly fits what they are looking for in a candidate.
Overall the city elections make it difficult for typically non-voting city residents to get excited, or gain real knowledge about candidates, and as a result many do not vote. Perhaps this is a good thing, insuring that only knowledgeable, “in the know” city residents are voting and deciding the city council, on the other hand it does potentially allow for a small minority to influence how the city is operated, and who the decision makers are.
The most exciting thing, or rather person, to come out of the city election was mayoral candidate Chris Brophy. The small business owner came out of nowhere, and had many, including myself, skeptical about what his views were. As soon as Brophy spoke at the candidates forum I was impressed. His directness, and desire to accomplish things was a rarity among most of the candidates. Where others wanted to mention and rely on their previous accomplishments, Brophy only focused on what needed to be done. His call for more candidates to run for city office was also admirable. In the end Brophy had no desire to actually win, and labeled his campaign an experiment, but I hope that his words and actions may have inspired others to run in future elections.
The surprising trend that came out of the election was the ousting of incumbents. Both Candace Hollingsworth (Ward 1) and Shani Warner (Ward 2) ousted incumbents in their respective wards. To me it showed that the new residents the city has absorbed over the past few years are getting involved and finally making their voices heard. The city resident landscape is changing, and this election showed that there is an emerging new group in the city that is not only influencing elections, but also has a lot to say.
The past election has given the city a new mayor and two new council members, only time will tell where the city will go from here.