Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a veteran lawmaker from Baltimore County, has filed papers to run for the Senate in the 2014 Democratic primary in the district now represented by Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell of Baltimore City.
Nathan-Pulliam, a member of the House since 1995, is seeking to take advantage of a redrawn district that is split between the county and Baltimore city. In the new 44th District, formerly all in the city, about two-thirds of the residents are county residents.
"The numbers at this time are on my side," Nathan-Pulliam said. "For me it's kind of hard to walk away."
Jones-Rodwell, who lives in the city, said she won't back down.
"I think I can compete. I have a record to run on. I also run to win," she said.
The contest was set up by the loss of population in the city since the 2000 Census, which showed the city had enough people to justify six full legislative district. By 2010, Baltimore had only enough people to support five legislative districts and a portion of a sixth. One of the city senators had to lose out -- and in this case it was Jones-Rodwell. West Baltimore's 44th was merged with much of what used the be the 10th District, which Nathan-Jones represents.
Nathan-Pulliam said there's nothing personal about her decision.
"I like Verna. There's nothing about not liking her," she said.
If the Jamaica-born Nathan-Pulliam wins the seat, she would become a Senate freshman at the age of 75 -- something she said would not be a problem for her. Jones-Rodwell, first elected to the House in 1998, would be starting her third Senate term at age 59.
Nathan-Pulliam, a registered nurse, has been a leader in the House of health-related issues and was instrumental in pushing the idea of Health Enterprise Zones to serve areas with high levels of uninsured residents, a concept adopted and brought to fruition by the O'Malley administration.
Jones-Rodwell, a member of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee, is coming off a session in which she was a key player in winning passage of legislation setting in motion a $1 billion plan to rebuild the city's dilapidated school buildings.
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat who supports Jones-Rodwell, said the incumbent will be able to make a strong argument that her experience with the city system can be helpful to the county as it looks for ways to renovate a school system with the second-oldest school buildings in the state.
"They need her help," Gladden said.
Both candidates are already seeking financial help. Nathan-Pulliam has a big fund-raiser scheduled for April 25 at Martin's West, with plans for another major event in the fall. Jones-Rodwell has a fund-raiser planned for June 27 at a location to be determined. Both are planning smaller, home-based events as well.