Voters in Montgomery County defeated a proposal last night that would have limited their elected officials to two terms in office, while their counterparts in Prince George's County voted down a move to lift term limits there.
By 54 percent to 46 percent, Montgomery County voters rejected the measure to impose term limits for County Council members and the county executive.
In Prince George's, more than 60 percent of the votes were against removing similar term limits for the county executive and County Council, with all but four of the county's 199 precincts counted.
The outcome of the votes means that only one of the state's two most populous counties faces a near-total turnover in local government in two years.
Impact in Annapolis
The initiatives had threatened to affect Maryland's 2002 governor's race.
Passage of the Montgomery County measure would have barred County Executive Douglas M. Duncan from seeking a third term - and could have propelled him into a run for governor.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, who under his county's term limits law is ineligible to run for re-election, also has been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor.
Opponents of the Montgomery County measure urged its defeat in letters to Republican and independent voters, said Howard A. Denis, a Republican Montgomery County councilman who described term limits as "a slogan meaning as much as, `Fly the friendly skies.'"
County Democrats and a Rockville-based business political action committee also opposed the initiative - as did many voters yesterday at Cold Spring Elementary School in Rockville.
"I think it fetters the people. We have term limits - it's called voting," said Harvey S. Jacobs, 41, an lawyer who is a Republican.
But another Republican there favored the measure, saying it might allow more political opportunities for Montgomery's growing Latino community.
"If it's good for the president, and it's good for the governor, then I think term limits is good for a county council," said Maria Pena-Faustino, a 51-year-old former census worker.
Votes across the country
U.S. Term Limits donated about $2,000 for signs in support of the Montgomery County proposal, said Paul Jacob, the group's national director.
The suburban Washington initiatives were among about 30 term limit votes on local ballots across the country, Jacob said.
Term limit laws were enacted in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and in 17 states during the early 1990s, an era of public discontent with politicians.
Prince George's County voters approved term limits in 1992.
Members of the Prince George's County Council - many of whom are ineligible to run for re-election in 2002 - voted to place two questions on the ballot to repeal the term limits law.
Isaac J. Gourdine, a Prince George's County councilman, said, "Would you like living in a county where you get rid of all your elected officials at once?"
But Michael Steele, head of the county's Republican Party and co-chairman of the Keep Term Limits Coalition, said of the measure: "It's about government usurping the desire and wishes of the people."
Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.