Del. Washington to challenge Conway for Baltimore Senate seat

Del. Mary Washington will challenge Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway for the Democratic nomination next year, putting yet another senior city lawmaker's seat in play.

Washington, 55, said Thursday she filed this week to run in the June 26, 2018, primary for the 43rd District Senate seat. The two-term delegate will try to oust the only Baltimore senator who chairs a standing committee.


"The seat doesn't belong to anyone. It belongs to the people of the district," Washington said. "It's an opportunity to expand and build upon the work I'm already doing as a delegate."

Conway, 66, said Thursday she will definitely seek re-election next year; she had previously left room for doubt. As chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, Conway said she wants to serve another four years to deal with an expected overhaul of the way Maryland finances public education. She has served in the Senate since 1996, when she was appointed to fill a vacancy.

Washington becomes the second Baltimore delegate to formally announce a bid to unseat an incumbent senator in the primary. A third is expected to do so this week. In Baltimore, winning the Democratic nomination has for decades been tantamount to election.

Del. Antonio Hayes has announced that he will take on Sen. Barbara Robinson, who was appointed in late 2016 to take the 40th District seat vacated by now-Mayor Catherine Pugh. Del. Cory McCray is expected on Saturday to jump into a race against veteran Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in East Baltimore's 45th District.

Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who represents a district that is split between Baltimore City and County, faces a challenge from labor union activist Aletheia McCaskill in the 44th. McCaskill filed in July but will formally announce her candidacy Saturday.

In Northwest Baltimore's 41st District, Sen. Nathaniel Oaks is expected to be challenged. The former delegate, who was appointed to the seat after Sen. Lisa Gladden retired for health reasons, is under federal indictment on corruption charges.

The city Senate delegation elected in 2018 could be much younger than the current lineup. In each case where there is a contest, the challenger is significantly younger than the incumbent.

Sen. Bill Ferguson, 34, of the 46th District and Conway are the only city senators under the age of 70.

Conway said Washington previously told her she would run only if Conway did not. She questioned whether voters would want to replace a senator holding a leadership position with one who would start in the back benches.

Conway said she will run on a ticket with Dels. Maggie McIntosh and Curt Anderson and is confident of victory.

Washington declined to outline policy differences with Conway but hinted that she would draw sharp distinctions as her campaign unfolds.

"I'm much more focused on the issues of the 43rd District, the constituents," she said. "Some people trust in the importance of backroom deals, but I prefer to advocate for my constituents in a more open and transparent way."

Among the accomplishments Washington plans to tout is her sponsorship of a bill that would have blocked the sale of people's homes in order to collect overdue water bills. The measure passed the House this year but died in the Senate.