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Atterbeary joins the 'Team 13' ticket

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As the deadline to file for a state candidate seat drew near on Feb. 25, Vanessa Atterbeary made a down-to-the-wire decision.

Though she had earlier submitted her paperwork to run for a spot on Howard County's Democratic Central Committee, Atterbeary changed her mind as the day wore on. That evening, she said, she scrambled to get a babysitter and hopped in the car with her mother to drive down to Annapolis and file for a different seat altogether: state delegate in District 13.

"When I filed, I think it was about 7:30," Atterbeary said. The state Board of Elections closed its doors that night at 9 p.m.

Atterbeary, 38, wasn't the only candidate to file at the last minute in District 13.

Columbia businessman Nayab Siddiqui, whose wife, School Board member Janet Siddiqui, had been a member of the "Team 13" Democratic ticket before she withdrew her candidacy, also turned in his paperwork late in the day on Feb. 25.

Atterbeary, a lawyer who works for her father's company, Fulton-based workforce development firm KRA Corporation, interviewed with "Team 13" members – incumbent Dels. Guy Guzzone, Shane Pendergrass and Frank Turner – and learned March 5 that she would be Janet Siddiqui's replacement on the slate.

In addition to Nayab Siddiqui, Oakland Mills community organizer Fred Eiland, who filed in July, was also considered for the ticket.

For Atterbeary, joining the ticket was a welcome change. In 2010, as a resident of Montgomery County, she ran against a Democratic slate made up of incumbent Dels. Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutierrez and Jeffrey Waldstreicher of District 18. Despite an endorsement by The Washington Post, she lost in the primaries, coming in fifth out of six candidates.

A graduate of Atholton High School, Atterbeary grew up in the district and decided to move back two years ago to raise her children in Howard County, she said. She now lives in Maple Lawn.

Atterbeary said she decided to run as a delegate again because the State House is where she wants to be.

"My heart, my passion, has always been to be in Annapolis, since I ran in 2010," she said. "It's always been what I wanted to do."

She's had a mentor along the way: Turner is a close family friend who's "always been very supportive of me," she said.

Atterbeary's mother was Turner's campaign chairman for years, and Atterbeary said she's known the delegate "for my whole life, probably." Some people have mistaken him for her uncle, though technically he is not, she said.

"He has been an inspiration, and I'm just happy (Team 13) chose me," she said. "I'm just excited to be able to work them and run with them."

"Team 13" members said they picked Atterbeary for the ticket because "her experience in business and her advocacy for victims of domestic violence will complement the team's expertise," according to a press release announcing the decision.

Domestic violence advocacy is a priority for Atterbeary, who started working at a shelter in college and participated in a clinic helping women to gain protective orders while she was in law school. She continued that work in her first job at a Bethesda law firm, and served on the Montgomery County Commission for Women, including as president, when she lived there.

Atterbeary said she is also interested in addressing other issues facing women and families, including work-life balance and equal pay for women.

"I do think there needs to be more strong of a voice" on women's issues in Annapolis, she said, "particularly on the judiciary committee. I think that's where my talents would best be served."

Atterbeary said she is a proponent of making preschool more accessible for Marylanders.

When she was searching for pre-K classes for her two young sons – Grayson, 2, and Holden, 7 months – she said she was "flabbergasted" by the prices.

"It's not expensive, it's ridiculously expensive," she said. "My son's 2, and he can say his ABCs right now. Not everybody is fortunate enough to send their child to an instructive situation like that."

She said she also wanted to work to expand economic opportunity for people in the state, particularly by supporting small businesses.

"My dad's an entrepreneur… I remember when his office was in our home," she said. "So I've watched him, and I see what kind of work and dedication it takes, but for small businesses to thrive and be successful, they need some help."

Atterbeary said she was eager to make up for her late start on the campaign trail.

"I'm just excited – I'm excited about the possibility of being (in Annapolis), I'm excited about running with the incumbents," she said. "It's just an exciting time."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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