The Prince George’s County Executive primary elections will take place July 19, with the general election on Nov. 8.
Five Democrats are running for the position, with no Republicans on the ballot. The county is overwhelmingly Democratic, with 89.3 percent of voters supporting President Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Incumbent Angela Alsobrooks is seeking a second term after declining a gubernatorial run.
The Diamondback reached out to each Democrat to learn more about their vision for the county. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Alsobrooks became Prince George’s County’s first female county executive in 2018. Now, the lifelong Prince Georgian is aiming to become the fifth consecutive county executive to win re-election.
Alsobrooks, who was the state’s attorney in the county before 2018, has had an eventful four years in office. She wrote in an email the past few years were some of the toughest.
She had to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated some of the inequities that had impacted Prince George’s County for decades, she said.
However, Alsobrooks took pride in how her administration addressed these issues, including a lack of access to healthy foods and primary care physicians and economic inequality.
Alsobrooks called Prince George’s County “THE leader in police reform in Maryland,” after the killing of George Floyd and the social justice movement that followed. She cited the creation of the Police Reform Work Group and the appointment of Malik Aziz, an advocate of community policing, as the county’s police chief. The prior permanent police chief resigned after the release of a 94-page report found the police department was entrenched in systemic racism.
Violent crime has continued to plague the county during Alsobrooks’ tenure. County police investigated 130 homicides in the county in 2021, the most the county had seen since 2007, according to the Washington Post.
Many of the people committing crimes were children. Alsobrooks stressed the importance of funding youth programs and holding parents accountable.
“As a community, we have to hold parents accountable, and wrap our arms around these children to both heal them and show them that there are consequences when you take up arms against fellow members of our community,” she wrote.
Alsobrooks emphasized her administration’s commitment to rebuilding education in the county. She referenced the groundbreaking of six schools last year through the Alternative Construction Finance program and a $30 million investment to build a new Career and Technical Education school.
Alsobrooks wrote she hopes to build a new Adventist Hospital in Fort Washington and continue constructing two medical offices, one in Largo and the other in National Harbor.
Air Force veteran Billy Bridges is making his second run at county executive, following his first run in 2018. Bridges grew up in Mississippi during an era of civil rights issues and witnessed the racial divide in the South.
Bridges earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Mississippi Valley State University and master’s degrees in public administration and Christian counseling.
Bridges moved to Prince George’s County in 1994, but he immediately noticed something “wrong.”
“This was supposed to be the most affluent Black county in the nation … I noticed right off the bat that there seemed to be a divide among the people, and I didn’t understand why,” he said.
After working in Prince George’s County Public Schools for almost 20 years, Bridges decided to run for office in 2018. However, Bridges thought many viewed him as a “political novice.” Now, Bridges, a fully self-funded candidate, said he has built upon his 2018 blueprint, and he hopes his plan reaches and empowers more people across the county.
Bridges said he has witnessed, firsthand, numerous issues that plague the school system.
First, he called for a restructuring of the county’s administrative system in schools. Bridges proposed redefining principal positions to be more specialized and renaming them as dean of academic affairs and a dean of student services, as examples.
Bridges also called for significant changes to policing, ranging from training to residency requirements.
Rather than defunding the police, Bridges said police need to change their mindset to focus more on public safety and community. On top of changes to the training academy, he wants to enforce a residency requirement for police officers, in which officers must live within a certain radius of the neighborhood they serve.
Bridges has two pieces to his economic plan. He said he plans to raise the minimum wage, while helping small businesses offset those increases with tax credits and exemptions. Then, Bridges aims to create special citizen investment program, where all citizens would be allowed to invest in county-wide projects, regardless of income, to create generational wealth to pass on to their families.
Leigh Bodden, a former NFL player, is beginning his political career by running for county executive.
He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Air Force veteran, businessman and community activist Sherman Hardy is running as a Democrat in his first run at political office for county executive. He emphasized how his background working with government and non-government organizations and community advocacy differentiate him from his competitors in the race.
“It all just comes together and it gives me an experience that some of the other candidates don’t have because I’ve been on the ground working with the community for quite some time,” he said.
Hardy’s campaign focuses on expanding STEAM education access, which encompasses science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, across the county. Hardy advocates for incorporating STEAM into the lives of students and adults.
“I’m trying to catapult Prince George’s into a position where we’ll be advanced and ready,” he said.
With this investment in technology, Hardy said he hopes to keep newly created jobs within the county. He mentioned he has had experiences where some residents who were overqualified for positions in Prince George’s County eventually moved to Washington, D.C., or Virginia.
One of Hardy’s police reform proposals is to establish public service aides, or individuals who will respond to non-priority calls, such as auto accidents. This will allow police officers to be able to respond swiftly to more urgent calls, Hardy said.
Hardy’s agenda also includes a goal to revamp public transportation across the county. He finds TheBus is an ineffective means of public transportation as there are often as few as five people on the bus. To address this, Hardy has proposed a fare-free rideshare system, similar to Uber or Lyft, that offers transportation to the nearest Metro station.
Hardy said this unique agenda is directed toward average Prince George’s residents, whose voices have felt unheard.
“I’m doing this for the unheard, the unseen, for the average everyday person who feels like the government doesn’t understand what they’re going through,” he said.
Moisette “Tonya” Sweat
From South Carolina, Moisette “Tonya” Sweat grew up in what she called a “loving” single-mother household with her grandparents, aunts, siblings and cousins in a 850-square foot house.
An Air Force ROTC scholarship recipient, Sweat received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of South Carolina. Following her graduation, Sweat received permission from the Air Force to attend law school before serving active duty. Sweat passed the bar exam in 1997 and started her active duty career.
Sweat moved to the Washington metro area in 1999 and is the managing member of Sweatism Consulting LLC.
Sweat described herself as the “quintessential African American mother.”
“I have a 20-year-old African American son, and he has grown up in a time of civil unrest. A time where we’ve watched a lot of abuse of Black men at the hands of the police,” she said. “I’m a mama bear. I’m very protective of my children.”
Sweat said her plan to reform the school system is three-fold. First, she emphasized the need to build new schools or renovate current schools to improve learning environments
Then, Sweat vowed to increase teachers’ pay.
Third, Sweat promised to appoint a Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO and four board members who do their job for the love of children, rather than monetary benefit.
Sweat’s perspective on policing is different from the other candidates, as she is married to a former police officer. She said she doesn’t have an issue with the police themselves because she lives with one, but rather the practices they often use in minority communities. Sweat is a strong advocate for community policing, which she said was successful when her husband was the deputy sheriff in Okaloosa County, Florida.
Despite being from South Carolina, Sweat said her kids are why Prince George’s County means so much to her.
“I have two children who were [born in Prince George’s County]. This is their legacy … as their mother, I am bound to make Prince George’s County stronger and better than it was when I found it,” she said.