Chanel Branch was chosen by the Democratic central committee she leads to fill the House of Delegates seat vacated by Del. Cheryl Glenn, who was charged recently with bribery and wire fraud.
Members of the 45th Legislative District of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee cast three of seven votes Monday for Branch, with the rest split among three other candidates. Branch is the chairwoman of the district’s committee and voted for herself.
The committee will forward her nomination to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has the final say. Once the committee sends a letter officially recommending Branch, the governor will have 15 days to accept or reject the nomination.
If approved, Branch will fill the remainder of Glenn’s term, which runs until January 2023. She would serve alongside her father, Maryland House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, a candidate in the Maryland 7th Congressional District special primary to replace to the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
“I’m nervous and overwhelmed, but excited to put my feet to the ground and start working,” said Chanel Branch, who works in the Maryland Department of Human Services.
Caylin Young, legislative affairs director for Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, received two votes. He said he will continue serving the city through his role at City Hall.
“2022 is around the corner,” he said of the next General Assembly election.
Branch would take over the seat long held by Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat, until her abrupt resignation in late December. Just days later, U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said Glenn accepted $33,750 in bribes in exchange for voting for a bill in 2018 that increased the number of state medical cannabis licenses, introducing legislation to ease the experience requirement to be medical director of an opioid treatment clinic, and introducing legislation to create a new liquor license in her East Baltimore district.
There were 13 candidates seeking Glenn’s former seat and each was interviewed Monday at the office of the nonprofit Humanim, offering their vision for the 45th District. They were quizzed on the structure of Maryland government and on the district. They also were asked about the challenges facing the district, with candidates referencing crime, poor schools and economic disinvestment.
Branch said she would prioritize fighting crime. She lost her son, 22-year-old Tyrone Ray, to gun violence in 2017. Already, she says, she’s made a difference in Annapolis: She and her father lobbied lawmakers for $3.6 million to expand Safe Streets, an anti-violence initiative, to more neighborhoods around Baltimore.
“Once I lost my son, I went straight to Annapolis to fight for people because I didn’t want anyone else to feel my pain,” she said.
Branch intended to seek a City Council seat in 2020, and filed to run in the 2nd District, but said she believes she can accomplish more in the General Assembly.
Branch said her father’s influential role in Annapolis won’t sway her votes.
“Living in my household, we’ve always been taught to be independent,” she said. “I’m a daddy’s girl, but I’m my own person and I won’t allow our relationship to interfere with my work.”
Branch acknowledged the awkwardness of seeking the nomination of a committee she chairs. Still, she said the process was fair, and that it wasn’t hard to decide to vote for herself.
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“I was my No. 1 fan,” she said. “I think I’m the best candidate.”
There have been close ties between candidates and nominating committees before: In 2016, when a committee needed to replace then-state Sen. Catherine Pugh of the 40th District after she was elected mayor of Baltimore, former City Councilman William “Pete” Welch received two votes on a seven-member panel — from his mother and daughter. He lost to Del. Barbara Robinson.
When the first half of the candidates — including Branch and Young — were interviewed during Monday’s meeting, members of the media were not allowed to observe, despite committee bylaws making meetings open to the public. City Central Democratic Committee Chairwoman Karenthia Barber cited Humanim policy as the reason for closing the doors before allowing reporters inside for the latter half of the meeting and to witness the vote.
Cindy Truitt, a Humanim representative, said Tuesday that the nonprofit organization does not have a policy on such meetings. Truitt called the incident a “misunderstanding” and said the organization “would never prevent any press access.”
A Humanim spokeswoman had issued a statement earlier Tuesday saying the nonprofit organization asks groups that use its facilities to tell them when media will be attending events.
“We ask that because of privacy concerns; people receive a variety of services in our facilities and we are bound to ensure their privacy. We welcome the media to our facilities and media has regularly covered events at our building over the past 10 years,” the statement said. "Given that we have routinely allowed media access and livestreaming in our building, we are not clear why this happened last night.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.