Mckayla Wilkes, the progressive Democrat who challenged U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in the 2020 Democratic primary, has announced she will try again next year.
Wilkes, a 30-year-old Black woman raised in Hoyer’s Fifth District, declared her candidacy for the Democratic primary in 2022 in a statement released Tuesday. The district encompasses Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties and parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.
In the June 2 primary, Wilkes received 26.7% of the vote compared to 64.4% for the second-most-powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives. Her 40,100 votes were the highest vote share of any of Hoyer’s challengers since he won the seat almost 40 years ago.
“Now, I’m running for Congress again. But this time, I’m running unreserved as the person I’ve always been,” Wilkes said in a campaign announcement. “A Black, queer, working mother of two who will never give up on fighting for what we deserve. It’s time for some ... change.”
During the campaign, Wilkes criticized Hoyer for not representing his constituents and not doing enough for communities of color.
“We all know that there is a disconnect between representatives in office and the people of Maryland and across the country,” Wilkes wrote in a Capital editorial in May. “People are crying out for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, criminal justice reform, and affordable housing, yet our current representative continues to oppose these common-sense reforms that would greatly improve the lives of regular Marylanders.”
Wilkes is not the first person to announce a primary challenge to Hoyer. Colin Byrd, the 28-year-old mayor of Greenbelt in Prince George’s County, announced in December he was also throwing his hat in the race.
During the last election cycle, Wilkes’ campaign had about 600 active volunteers and has already garnered 400 new volunteer sign-ups for this cycle, according to her campaign announcement. The campaign raised nearly $500,000, including $200,000 in the final month of the election, from more than 9,000 small donors.
Since her defeat, Wilkes co-founded a nonprofit advocacy organization, Schools Not Jails, to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. Part of her 2020 campaign platform was criminal justice reform, including ending cash bail, legalizing marijuana and moving from “a system of incarceration to one of rehabilitation,” according to her editorial.