Wanted: women candidates in Md.'s 41st District

OK, I’ll admit it: I have precinct envy. I live in Maryland’s 41st legislative district, one of six state legislative districts located in Baltimore. It spans the city from North Charles Street in the east to Route 40 in the west. It’s an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, including Park Heights, which is smack in the middle, with Edmonson Village and Roland Park as the bookends. In 2018, the 41st , like most districts in Maryland, will elect one state senator and three delegates. The 41st, however, is electorally-challenged right now.

Although the Maryland legislature is No.11 in the nation for the highest proportion of women among elected state officials, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, women still represent only 31.4 percent of our state legislature. (And despite previously having the longest serving woman senator in the nation, we currently have no women in our congressional delegation.) In the 41st, we have one delegate who is a woman.

However, the paucity of women was not ordained by us voters in the 41st. Consider the current landscape. Our senator, Nathaniel Oaks, was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan at the recommendation of the city’s Democratic Central Committee to take the place of Sen. Lisa Gladden, who resigned because of illness (shortly after his appointment, however, he was indicted on a federal wire fraud charge and is undoubtedly distracted from focusing on his senatorial obligations). Mr. Oaks’ appointment to the Senate left his delegate position vacant, thus leading our governor to appoint Bilal Ali, who also was recommended by the Democratic Central Committee.

Del. Jill Carter, who won her delegate position in 2006, resigned last year to take a position in the Pugh administration, creating another vacancy and yet another appointment. This time, the Central Committee recommended Angela Gibson. As a result, out of the four individuals serving our district, only one — Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a man — was actually elected to the office.

You can’t quibble with the legality of these appointments; our Constitution permits this process. However, it’s up to my neighbors and me to determine whether these newly-appointed folks will stay on after 2018, as each has indicated that they expect to run. To do this, I hope we have a more crowded race to weigh our options. And I hope that women candidates are part of that mix; so far we have two in the 41st: Ms. Gibson, along with an attorney named Dalya Attar, a political newcomer.

In recent years, a few of the city’s legislative districts are benefiting from newly-minted politicians. And these individuals are women. Energetic, and often already quite accomplished, Baltimore City women are deciding to run, or have run and won. The good news is that they’re having a tremendous impact in their home districts and beyond. Some of us in the 41st are jealous.

Their names most likely are familiar to you. In the 43rd, Del. Mary Washington, elected in 2010, has made a name for herself as an effective advocate for the city’s interests. In the 46th, relative newcomer Robbyn Lewis has announced her candidacy for delegate. (She is currently serving as delegate, having been appointed by Governor Hogan late last year.) She’s in good company; her fellow delegate, Brooke Lierman, was elected in 2014. Both are well-regarded.

In the 45th, newcomer Stephanie Smith, a recent graduate of Emerge Maryland, a training program for women interested in running on the Democratic ticket, has already made a name for herself as a grassroots organizer and has said she intends to seek a House seat. Angel Boyd Mack also is running for delegate in the 45th, advertising herself as the “progressive millennial for change.”

Visit a farmer’s market or a forum in town on issues ranging from crime to education, and you’ll see these women talking to their constituents, showcasing programs in their districts, and advocating on state and local concerns. But we need more candidates, and, selfishly, I want more women candidates in the 41st.

Claudia Diamond is a lawyer who has called the 41st District home since 1996. She may be reached at claudiaadiamond@gmail.com.

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