Baltimore civil rights director Jill Carter running for Senate against Nathaniel Oaks, J.D. Merrill

Jill P. Carter, the director of Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, on Tuesday filed to run for state Senate against Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks, who is facing federal corruption charges.

Carter, a former state delegate, becomes the third candidate in the race along with Oaks and J.D. Merrill — a former Baltimore public school teacher and administrator who is also former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s son-in-law.

Carter said she plans to continue in her City Hall position during the campaign and if she wins the election.

“I don’t think Oaks can be effective given his current circumstance,” Carter said. “I also think it’s important that voters have faith in the integrity of those in office. My agenda is the people’s agenda. Never the special interests. Never the establishment.”

Oaks, who this week was removed from his committee positions in the Maryland Senate, did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors have charged Oaks with fraud and obstruction of justice. Oaks has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have said in court documents that he was entrapped by federal agents.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended that Oaks lose his seat on the finance committee “in recognition of our duty to protect the public trust,” according to a confidential Feb. 22 letter the committee sent to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Miller made the letter public Monday night and announced he was taking the ethics committee’s advice.

As a state delegate for 14 years, Carter led a legislative effort opposing the construction of a new youth jail in Baltimore and sponsored “Christopher’s Law,” which requires police to undergo more training on use of force, cultural diversity and lifesaving skills. The law is named for Christopher Brown, a 17-year-old student at Randallstown High School who died during an encounter with an off-duty Baltimore County police officer in 2012.

Carter was also a frequent critic of former Baltimore Mayor O’Malley and his crime strategy, especially his police department’s use of what she characterized as mass arrests.

That could lead to tension on the campaign trail where she will be running against Merrill, O’Malley’s son-in-law.

Merrill was a teacher at Baltimore City College where he led a $2.2 million campaign to build a new library and learning center. He later led special projects for Baltimore City Public Schools.

He said he will work hard to bring back more money for the city’s public schools if elected.

“I’m running to bring new, energetic leadership to the General Assembly that’s focused on improving our schools because we all do better when our schools do better,” he said in an email. “The momentum behind our campaign reflects the fact that District 41 residents are looking for hardworking and accountable representation that will focus on the issues that matter the most to Baltimore families — great schools, clean and safe streets, living wage jobs, and an efficient and reliable transportation system.”

Carter’s filing was one of several notable entries into legislative races at the final day to file before June 26 primary election.

Former City Councilman Carl Stokes, who recently ran for mayor, entered the crowded District 43 race for state delegate.

Incumbent delegates Curt Anderson and Maggie McIntosh are running for re-election while Del. Mary Washington is challenging Sen. Joan Carter Conway.

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