The special election to elect a new College Park mayor will be held May 6 in City Hall, the city council voted Tuesday during its first normal meeting since ex-Mayor Patrick Wojahn’s arrest on child pornography charges.
The special election comes after Wojahn resigned March 2, before he was arrested on 56 counts of child pornography.
Election Day voting will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in City Hall. Early voting will be on May 2 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Davis Hall. Mail-in voting will also be available and ballot drop-off boxes will likely be in front of City Hall, Stamp Student Union and Davis Hall, according to John Payne, the chief of the city’s Board of Election Supervisors.
Mayor Pro Tem Denise Mitchell, a District 4 council member, will lead the city until the new mayor is sworn in.
Tuesday’s council meeting was the first regular meeting since the mayor’s arrest. The council met briefly Thursday and voted to remove Wojahn from all boards, committees and positions in the city.
“We are one College Park. We support each other in tough times and we will all get through this,” Mitchell said at the meeting. “We have been taught how to work through in the hard times … and how to prevail on the other side.”
The Board of Election Supervisors of College Park was planning the Nov. 5 city elections when it heard the news of Wojahn’s arrest.
“We freaked out,” Payne said.
Payne said the board’s plan for the special election will mirror its plan for November’s election, which will still happen as planned.
City code requires a special election to take place within 65 days of the vacancy caused by the mayor’s resignation. May 6 falls exactly 65 days after Wojahn resigned. Payne said the board needed as much time as possible to organize the election and to give candidates enough time to campaign.
Individuals interested in running for mayor will have to collect 15 signatures from each council district to become an official candidate, according to candidacy documents. The winner will be the candidate who has the most votes, with no option for a runoff election.
[Ex-College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn held without bond following child pornography charges]
If a current council member wins the mayoral position in May, the city council and mayor will vote to appoint a replacement council member. City policy says if a vacancy on the council appears within 180 days of a scheduled election, the council can appoint someone to fill the vacancy because of the possible appointment’s proximity to the November election.
District 1 council member Fazlul Kabir was concerned the election date will be on the same day as the College Park Day Parade, which will temporarily shut down Rhode Island Avenue. Kabir said his residents have expressed concerns about how to get to City Hall from North College Park during the closure.
District 3 council member John Rigg said this meeting was a representation of the city’s path forward.
“This is a demonstration of how the city continues,” Rigg said. “We’re bigger than one person, we’re bigger than one issue.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated a person needs 20 signatures from each district to be an official candidate. They need 15 signatures from each district. This story has been updated.