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Del. Mary Ann Lisanti listens to majority leader Del. Kathleen Dumais speak in support of a resolution of censure in the Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday.
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti listens to majority leader Del. Kathleen Dumais speak in support of a resolution of censure in the Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday. (Ulysses MuÒoz / Baltimore Sun)

The Harford County Democratic Central Committee is calling for Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti’s resignation after the official confirmed and apologized for making a racial slur.

During a special meeting on Saturday, the group voted to adopt central committee chair Denise Perry’s statement from earlier in the week which recommended that Lisanti resign.

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“We have an expectation that the people we elect respect us, care about our issues and are working in our best interests,” said Perry, who lives in Lisanti’s District 34A, said during the Thursday meeting of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. “This conduct questions whether she can fully represent her constituents without bias.”

Lisanti, 51, has been under fire since The Washington Post reported she used the racial slur during an after-hours gathering in January at an Annapolis cigar bar. Lisanti told a fellow lawmaker that when he helped a candidate in Prince George’s County, he was knocking on doors in a “n----- district,” according to the report.

After the Maryland House of Delegates voted Thursday to censure her, the Democrat said she would not resign, despite calls for her to do so by House leaders, the governor, the Legislative Black Caucus and constituents.

As Harford County delegate Mary Ann Lisanti faced a censure vote in the House of Delegates, community leaders and elected officials in Harford County — and across the state — are calling for her resignation.

Calls for Lisanti’s resignation, as well as a competing call for her to stay in office, were discussed during the Harford County Democratic Central Committee’s regular meeting Thursday evening at Helping Hands Ministries in Churchville.

At that meeting, Aaron Givens, events chair for The Young Democrats of Harford & Cecil County, Maryland, read a statement on behalf of the organization calling for Lisanti to “immediately step down and resign from the elected position.”

“The appalling and disgraceful words that Delegate Lisanti used in recent days are hateful, unapologetic and we as Young Democrats, who are members of the community and the state, will absolutely not stand for hate, disregard for others or racial slurs of any kind,” Givens stated. “We must stand together to respect everyone regardless of color, race, sex, gender, nationality, creed, disability status and/or sexual identity.”

Givens attended the Thursday meeting with Kevin Miksis and Joshua Cooper, the organization’s respective president and vice president. All three worked to develop the statement, with support from Young Democrats at the state level, according to Miksis.

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland says Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democrat from Harford County censured by the House for using a racial slur, is now a “lame duck delegate” and should resign.

Committee member Barbara Osborn Kreamer read a three-page statement in support of Lisanti.

Kreamer, a former Harford County Council member and state delegate, said she has known Lisanti since she was in high school and described the legislator as “the brightest star in the Harford County Democratic constellation.”

Kreamer cited Lisanti’s ability to build coalitions in Annapolis, get bills passed and bringing state bond funds back to Harford County. She noted Lisanti had been endorsed by media organizations, including The Baltimore Sun.

“People liked her, trusted her, contributed to her campaign and turned out to vote for her,” Kreamer stated. “Candidates sought to affiliate with her, and legislative leadership spoke well of her, backing her candidacy with staff and financing. She was the top vote-getter for re-election for District 34A. But now, I am really disappointed in her.”

Kreamer said the central committee “cannot create a vacancy” with Lisanti’s resignation.

Harford County Del. Mary Ann Lisanti responded to the House of Delegates censuring her over her use of a racial slur to describe Prince George's County.

“We censure Delegate Lisanti for her abhorrent utterance,” Kreamer stated. “We urge her to apply herself to the sensitivity training that the Speaker [of the House] has offered, and we call upon her to dedicate significant legislative energy to improving equal opportunity for Marylanders through both her speech and action.”

Perry also announced during the Thusday meeting that she has appointed a committee of four central committee members — Mike Bracknell, the Rev. Cordell Hunter, Steve Puopolo and JoWanda Strickland-Lucas, who will be the committee chair — to review the process of selecting a successor if Lisanti resigns. Perry said she expects a report from the group by next Thursday.

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“If it is called upon us [to act], we can make the process run smoothly,” Perry said.

State Democratic chair visits

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, was the guest speaker at Thursday’s meeting. She stopped by Harford County as part of a “listening tour” she is taking of all 24 counties in Maryland since her first term as state party chair started Dec. 1.

“We are at a critical time, certainly in the history of our state and of our nation,” she said.

Rockeymoore Cummings said the United States is “in an atmosphere where certain people in our country particularly the head of our nation, the person sitting in the White House, has been stoking all kinds of hate and division.” although she did not mention President Donald Trump by name.

She had issued a statement earlier in the week calling for Lisanti to resign over her use of the racial slur. She did not mention Lisanti during her roughly 15-minute talk and question-and-answer session with the Harford Democrats on Thursday, but she did stress the need for party unity and provided details about the state party’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, which was also announced earlier in the week.

“I think that we here in the state of Maryland should show the nation [what] a diverse and inclusive demography looks like, how it functions and how it works to uplift all people,” she said.

Rockeymoore Cummings emphasized strategies to ensure Democratic candidates can run and win in Maryland, such as ensuring party unity so voters do not split their ballots — she cited last year’s election when a number of Democratic voters helped re-elect Republican Larry Hogan as governor.

She also emphasized outreach to young voters, to people living in rural parts of Maryland, improving use of technology and ensuring security at the ballot box.

Rockeymoore Cummings said that if party members feel there are any differences among each other, “I ask you to confront it work through it and resolve it because we have a larger mission, and in 2020 that mission is to turn the White House blue.”

Audience members applauded her, and at least one person called out, “bravo!”

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