Fazlul Kabir and his son, Arif Kabir wait for the official tally of votes for District 1. The absentee and provisional ballots will prove to be crucial for Kabir, as he beat incumbent Christine Nagle by two votes. (Nov. 9, 2011) Credit Shannon Hoffman, CollegePark.Patch.com
Political newcomer Fazlul Kabir shook up the City Council election with a two vote victory over incumbent Christine Nagel after election officials conducted four painstaking recounts on Wednesday afternoon, November 9, 2011 in College Park, Maryland.
The City of College Park – home of the flagship campus of the University of Maryland – is governed by a mayor and a city council composed of eight members. The city is divided into four districts, each represented by two elected council members. Kabir, 48, campaigned to be one of the two representatives of District 1, the home of landmarks like IKEA and Al-Huda School.
Despite the fact that absentee ballots had not yet been counted by the close of election day, local media reported both incumbents won in College Park's District 1 election with Kabir losing by nine votes. However, dozens of residents told Kabir that they voted for him through the absentee ballot process, and election officials confirmed that 25 absentee votes had yet to be counted.
With Kabir anxiously looking on the next day, officials recounted the votes and the absentee ballot. The end result: incumbent Patrick Wojahn kept his council position with 356 votes, Fazlul Kabir won the other seat with 306 votes, and the now-outgoing council member Nagel had 304 votes.
Council members serve 2-year terms and get paid a modest fee of $5,000 per year; almost all council members maintain their full-time employment while serving on the city council during evenings and weekends.
“See, this is what we've been saying all along. Every vote counts,” Fazlul Kabir told residents who congratulated him after the results were certified.
Kabir ran in 2009 also, losing to Nagel by 73 votes. This year he was behind top vote getter Wojahn by only 50 votes. Both Wojahn and Nagel are attorneys; Kabir is involved with technology and holds a doctorate in Electrical Engineering and also teaches courses at the University of Maryland.
This year's race ended with drama not only because of the vote recounts, but also because of what appears to be foul play. Kabir said he lost over a dozen campaign signs he legally placed on public property in the days leading up to the election; some were found dumped near a creek. He would replace the missing signs, only to find them gone again. City officials told Kabir their workers did not remove the signs.
Overall, this year's College Park City Council election had a voter turnout of 7.3%; the voter turnout in District 1 was 14.7%. Kabir takes office in December.