LANDOVER – Eight of the candidates for Maryland State Senate for Legislative Districts 23, 24 and 25 discussed current and potential state legislation and their impact on the county during a forum on May 24 at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. Congregant and sports broadcaster Lou Holder moderated the discussion. The church’s Civic Engagement Ministry developed the questions posed to the candidates. Each candidate answered two questions.
State Senate candidates Tim Adams, State Sen. Doug Peters, Tiffany Alston, State Sen. Joanne Benson, Everett Browning Sr., State Del. Angela Angel, Melony Griffith and Jonathan Rosero, participated in the forum. All of the candidates are registered as Democrats.
Adams and Peters are running for District 23; Alston, Benson and Browning for District 24; and Angel, Griffith and Rosero for District 25.
The primary election is June 26.
Adams is the Founder, President, and CEO of Systems Application & Technologies, Inc. Adams said given a choice between raising salaries for teachers, providing additional funding for universal pre-kindergarten and investing in infrastructure, he would choose increasing teachers’ pay.
“If we want our children to succeed, we have to start with the teachers,” Adams said.
He said, however, that he would prefer to focus on these priorities simultaneously through coalitions and appropriate funding. This problem of having to choose one concern over the other arises due to lack of funding.
“We need to find a way to get everyone what they need,” Adams said.
Peters has been a state senator since 2007 and previously served as a Bowie councilmember as well as a Prince George’s County councilmember. During the forum, he expressed his opposition to right to die legislation, which has been introduced several times (without passage) in the Maryland state legislature. These types of laws would allow terminally ill individuals to obtain lethal prescription drugs.
Peters, who has co-sponsored bills against right to die legislation, cited opposition from religious and medical groups that bolstered his views.
“MedChi, which represents all the physicians, is against it. They don’t want to get into a situation where they’re signing off on right to die medicine where there could be some estates in the balance, where there could be some families fighting,” Peters said.
In 2016, MedChi, the Maryland state medical society, switched their position on aid-in-dying legislation from “oppose” to “neutral.”
Alston previously served as a state delegate from 2011 – 2012. She was removed from office after an Anne Arundel County jury convicted her of theft and misconduct while in office.
In response to a question about religious and nonprofit groups who may still want to practice conversion therapy, Alston said, “I believe we all have the first amendment right to worship and believe whatever it is we want to believe...So, when it comes to counselors providing therapy and their licensure, I’m going to make sure they actually are able to observe their religious freedoms. Whatever those beliefs (are), whatever that religion is, I’m going to fight to make sure it’s always protected.”
Conversion therapy is the controversial practice with little to no scientific backing to attempt to change LGBT+ individuals’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This year, the Maryland legislature passed legislation banning conversion therapy for minors.
Alston also said she would oppose reinstating the death penalty in Maryland.
Benson served as a state delegate for about two decades before becoming a state senator in 2011. During the forum, she expressed her support to raise the minimum wage in Maryland to $15/hour.
“And even with that, it is very difficult for some of our people who are struggling along,” Benson said.
Browning is senior vice president at Analygence, Inc. and vice president of mentoring for the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, Inc. He said he supports collaboration with other jurisdictions in the region to promote development that can benefit all parties. For instance, if Amazon chooses northern Virginia for their new headquarters, he said that could present opportunities for Prince George’s.
“We have to make sure that not only in the DMV, but across the state and across the world, that we bring in partners here and that when these companies come here, that they’re not only building something, but that they’re investing something in our community,” Browning said. “We have to be more than a place where someone builds a building. We have to build a place where we force them to make sure they invest in us and our generational wealth.”
Angel has served as a delegate since 2014. She previously served as an attorney in child neglect law. She decided to run for the state senate because she believes it is the best place where she could affect change during a time when “there are a lot of things going on federally that we can’t control.”
“One of the places where you have the ultimate power to help our citizens is in the state government,” she said.
Angel said one way in which the state legislature recently accomplished this was by adjusting the state income tax to “reverse some of the damages that were done by the federal changes in the law.”
Griffith served as a state delegate from 1999 – 2015 and was chosen as chair of the Prince George’s County Delegation. She said should Republican Gov. Larry Hogan be elected to a second term, the Prince George’s members of the legislature will need to stand united in their positions to ensure fair and equitable treatment for the county under the Hogan administration. She said that once the county delegation is united, other jurisdictions will be more likely to join and support them.
Griffith also stated the importance of ensuring that individuals have resources they can contact if they are the victim of a hate crime.
Rosero is a captain in the United States Army Reserve and a veterinarian. He said he does not support the legalization of recreational marijuana, though he does support the use of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is allowed and available in Maryland.
He also supports the decriminalization of the possession of marijuana, as that has negatively affected many lives.
“So many lives have been destroyed, especially young African American men and women, who do not need to have their lives shattered, to pick up the pieces, because of possession of an illegal substance,” Rosero said.