Editor’s note: Bethesda Beat publishes a series of articles highlighting local races for county, state and federal elections in the November 8 general election. Today’s story focuses on County Council District 7.
In a new county council district covering the northeastern part of Montgomery County, an assistant attorney general specializing in school safety, emergency management and hate crimes faces off with an economist and financial analyst in the 8 november.
Dawn Luedtke, 48, is the Democratic candidate for District 7, beating six other candidates in the July primary with nearly 36% of the vote. Harold Maldonado, 48, ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
District 7 is a new district created during the redistricting process last year. County voters approved a ballot question in 2020 that increased council size from nine to 11 members – the number of districts was reduced from five to seven and general seats (serving the entire county) remained at four.
Luedtke and Maldonado race in a district that includes Derwood, Olney, Ashton, Laytonsville and Damascus.
Luedtke, 48, is an assistant attorney general for Maryland and serves as an attorney for the Maryland Center for School Safety, the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center and the Active Assailant Interdisciplinary Work Group.
Maldonado, 48, is an economist and currently serves as a financial analyst for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a private company focused on ensuring fair investment markets nationwide.
In an interview, Luedtke pointed to economic development and public safety as two of the main issues raised by voters during the election campaign. Maldonado said he decided to run after learning of the frustration felt by many parents and teachers stemming from restrictions imposed on schools and businesses by county officials during the coronavirus pandemic.
Luedtke and Maldonado agree that the county’s agricultural reserve – a significant portion of which is in District 7 – must be an important part of future economic development efforts due to the number of farmers in the county and the need to relocate this sector of the economy. Businesses in this region need to be able to transition into agritourism, and county officials need to contribute to these efforts and provide assistance, whether through funding or regulatory expertise, they said.
Luedtke said the county needs to encourage economic development in the agricultural reserve, especially if market conditions harden and future generations are unwilling to continue as farmers. County officials need to consider creative solutions that allow farm owners and their families the freedom to try different economic ventures to make their land profitable in the future, she said.
The county also needs to reduce licensing process requirements for all businesses, Maldonado said.
“When you want to open a business, you fill out a file. This application requires a lot of paperwork, a lot of documentation. So…one of my goals is to reduce that by 50%,” Maldonado said. “So a lot of companies that want to invest in the county, one of the downsides that they see are those [county] regulations, in addition to high taxes, so they prefer to invest in Alexandria, Fairfax, Arlington [County]or Washington, D.C. »
The county also faces challenges providing enough affordable housing, including in District 7, Luedtke said. It’s getting harder and harder for older residents to move from their single-family homes to smaller condos, apartments and other properties because the supply isn’t there, she said.
Ultimately, county officials must promote that secondary suites, duplexes, triplexes and similar housing structures are part of the housing solution, including in more rural areas such as parts of District 7, Luedtke said.
“It needs a good PR message, doesn’t it? Because I feel like, as diverse as our county is, there are still a lot of people here, who this concept is tinged with a kind of bias, shall we say,” Luedtke said. “And that’s too bad. I grew up in a multigenerational family and you know, most people in our neighborhood had that kind of arrangement with their grandparents and all that, and nobody was paying attention to it. But there’s definitely a pushback here in that it may be something that’s potentially more prevalent in some cultures than in others. others.
Maldonado, however, thinks any future growth needs to be better controlled. He thinks Thrive Montgomery 2050 — the county’s proposed update to its general master plan — is forcing urbanization in too many parts of the county, including his district.
County officials have talked about providing affordable housing for at least two decades, but haven’t done enough to ensure that current apartment complexes and buildings are safe for working-class residents, he said. added. Residents’ quality of life is declining in several communities with older buildings, Maldonado said, and some steps need to be taken to help them, such as freezing rent increases.
Maldonaldo said county officials must also consider where to prioritize upgrading the county’s infrastructure, including roads and water and sewer systems, to combat the effects of climate change. He also thinks officials should continually review all assumptions that go into studies and county assessments involving climate change.
It is difficult to know which infrastructure needs to be improved first before reaching out to communities to find out where the problems lie, he said.
Luedtke agreed that the county’s infrastructure needed updating — especially the many roads in District 7 that spill easily with any significant amount of rain. The county needs to be aggressive in improving infrastructure because major flooding is no longer uncommon, she added.
This is important not only because of the need to improve infrastructure, but also to prepare for the distribution of food and supplies to connect with communities in times of distress, Luedtke said.
In a county where Democrats hold a roughly 4-to-1 advantage in voter registration over Republicans, Luedtke said she’s confident she’ll win, but doesn’t take anything for granted. She said she has been praised by organizations and residents across the state for her work as deputy attorney general.
“There are people I’ve been able to work with from Garrett County to Somerset County who will say thank you and have said thank you,” Luedtke said. “I do the work and I have been looking for this office to do the work.”
Maldonaldo said he understands his chances of winning the election, but he thinks many residents want a fresh perspective in local government, which he and other local Republicans can provide.
“They want new leadership,” he said. “And I and my other GOP colleagues are the new blood of the GOP party. We are here, we are passionate about being residents, we are passionate about loving this county, and we have skin in the game.”
Early voting for the general election takes place from October 27 to November 3. Absentee ballots can be dropped off in the mail or at more than 50 ballot boxes throughout the county.