For the past three elections, Prince George’s County voters either mailed in or cast their ballots in person when selecting judges for the Circuit Court.
But this month’s presidential primary election showcased a first-time occurrence since the county began the election and nominating processes for judges in 1970: two Black women won the Democratic nomination by running independent campaigns.
The majority of incumbent candidates who run on a slate have been successful to the bench.
“It signifies that people want change,” said Gladys Weatherspoon, 55, a defense attorney who received the third-most votes on the ballot with 114,459. “People want to feel they are being treated with dignity and respect when they walk in a courtroom.”
The other candidate, April Ademiluyi, a 39-year-old attorney who practices real estate and intellectual property, entered her third straight judge race and garnered the fifth and final spot with 105,725 votes.
“I knew it was going to happen. I wasn’t shocked. I started this in 2016. I was always focused on a grassroots campaign and talking to the people,” said Ademiluyi, adding that she ran on a $5,000 campaign budget. “I knew my time was coming.”
The other three candidates who received the Democratic nomination are incumbents Wytonja Curry with 136,909 votes, ShaRon M. Grayson Kelsey with 133,149 votes and Cathy H. Serrette received 108,121.
However, judge races are non-partisan and candidates can run on the Republican ballot in the primary.
Serrette became the top vote-getter at 5,690 votes.
Incumbents Jared Michael McCarthy placed second with 5,550 votes and incumbent Byron Seth Bereano came in third place with 4,970.
Weatherspoon sat in the fourth spot with 4,150 votes and Grayson Kelsey received 4,067 votes to round out the top five.
All seven candidates will appear on one ballot in the Nov. 3 general election. The top five vote-getters will serve 15-year terms.
The current judges were all vetted by a lawyer’s commission and others before their names were sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, who eventually appointed them all to the Circuit Court.
According to a video on the incumbents’ Facebook page called “Committee to Elect the Sitting Judges,” they received support from prominent Democratic politicians such as Reps. Anthony Brown and Steny Hoyer and several state, county and municipal officials.
The next day after the June 2 primary, the judges posted a picture of themselves with a message for supporters: “The primaries are over and we’re overwhelmed with the support received. Thank you to everyone who donated their money, time, energy and general well-wishes during the campaign. Taking a break before the general election.”
The judges couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bruce Bereano, a prominent Maryland lobbyist and the father of Byron Bereano, who helped push for the slate to win the nominations on both ballots, wrote in a June 11 email, “My son lost the election in Prince George’s County and I am no longer interested anymore. Please understand. Best wishes.”
Candidates have until Aug. 4 to formally decide whether to drop out the general election race.
In the meantime, voters such as Elizabeth Johnson of Temple Hills said she’s pleased with an all-women Democratic ballot, especially that four of them are Black.
“Don’t you love it? It just makes me so emotional,” said Johnson, housing chair of the Maryland State NAACP State Conference and a supporter of Ademiluyi. “I just don’t see how those white guys [McCarthy and Bereano] are going to win because Black folks have finally got the message … [of] making sure that Black people are not ignored and that the power is in the courts.”
Meanwhile, two school board races are set with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election.
In District 4, Shayla Adams-Stafford received the most votes at 7,688 and will face incumbent Bryan Swan, who garnered 4,802 votes.
Kenneth F. Harris II received the most votes for the District 7 seat with 9,730 votes. He will face Alexis Branch, who came in second place with 8,553.
One of those political novices will replace incumbent K. Alexander Wallace, who came in third place with 3,618 votes.