This story was first published at 11:48 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2023. It was updated at 7:20 p.m. on Nov. 9 to include comments from the newly elected city councilmembers.
The unofficial results of Gaithersburg’s City Council elections have incumbent candidates Neil Harris and Robert Wu and newcomer Yamil Hernández as the city’s next city councilmembers.
As of Tuesday evening, Harris received 2,900 votes (24.57%), Hernández received 2,189 votes (18.55%) and Wu received 2,932 votes (24.84%), according to a press release from the City of Gaithersburg.
Hernández will now serve a four-year term, and Harris and Wu will serve additional four-year terms on the council, joining Mayor Jud Ashman, council Vice President Lisa Henderson and council member Jim McNulty. Henderson and McNulty were elected in the 2021 city elections.
The City Council’s role in Gaithersburg involves approving the annual budget and setting the tax rate, as well as managing capital improvement projects, economic development, community growth and planning, according to the Gaithersburg website.
The other candidates running for a seat on the council were Daniel Lukomsky, Shanika Whitehurst and Omodamola Williams. Lukomsky received 885 votes (7.5%), Whitehurst received 2,072 votes (17.56%) and Williams received 824 votes (6.98%), the release said.
Priorities of the new council
“The vote totals in my mind validate what I’ve been doing for the past eight years. And I’m very happy and grateful to the residents of Gaithersburg for allowing me to serve four more years,” said Wu, who has served two terms on council.
He said that his next priority on council will be to focus on the redevelopment of Lakeforest Mall, which closed down in March. Wu hopes the future of the shuttered mall will be a “wonderful addition” to the city.
Newcomer Hernández – who unsuccessfully ran in the 2021 city council elections – told MoCo360 that he is excited to get to work and “build a better Gaithersburg.”
Hernández is particularly excited to work on issues of public safety and help bring funding to the city’s police department, he said. Recent reallocation of Montgomery County police resources means the city council has to find additional funding sources to address current public safety challenges, he explained.
Harris, who was reelected for his third term on the city council, said that funding the Gaithersburg police department and planning Lakeforest Mall are two big priorities for him. But one topic also on his radar are mass transit and transportation solutions for the area.
“I’m still very concerned about whether we’re keeping up on transportation,” he said. “… I think in the long term it’s something that we absolutely need to do. It takes a long time, it takes a lot of money, but it’s also really important in order to make things work.”
Official results are to come
The unofficial results for the election were released late Tuesday. On Nov. 14 the Board of Supervisors of Elections will review mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 7 but received by Nov. 9, as well as provisional ballots cast on Election Day, the release said.
Official results will be announced Nov. 15.
The newly elected officials will be sworn in at a special session of the mayor and council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20. The meeting can be viewed live on YouTube, Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter), or watched via Zoom with pre-registration.
The City of Gaithersburg used a hybrid voting process with both mail-in and in-person voting this election season. In October, voters began dropping off ballots to seven secure ballot boxes located across the city. Also, the city held an early voting day on Oct. 29.
Polls at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m. According to Ty Hardaway, the chief election judge at the polling center, when the polls closed around 30 people were waiting in line to cast their ballot.
According to the release, as of Tuesday, 4,200 ballots were cast, 2,567 ballots of which were mailed-in and 1,633 were cast at the polls. The release said that there are 37,113 registered voters in the city, and the preliminary turnout this election season was 11.32%.
Turnout in the 2021 election was 13.22%, and in 2019 it was 6.54%, MoCo360 reported.
Gaithersburg holds its elections every two years, with the mayor and council serving staggered four-year terms. The next election will be held in 2025.