SEABROOK – After months of speculation, former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards has officially announced her candidacy for Prince George’s County Executive.
Edwards, 59, released a video on YouTube last Thursday to announce her campaign to replace Rushern Baker, III in the county’s top job.
“We have the fundamentals. We need to create education, jobs and innovation to take on the challenges of the 21st Century,” she said. “I’m an independent decision-maker, and we are going to create a government in Prince George’s County that is transparent, that is open, and that is accessible, and in that way our county will be more competitive around the region.”
Edwards served for five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2008, representing Maryland’s 4th District. She gave up her seat to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, but ultimately lost in the Democratic primary to current Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
Prior to her career in politics, Edwards worked at NASA Goddard’s Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, at the United Nations Development Program and as a lawyer. She is the daughter of an Air Force veteran and a community organizer. According to Edwards, her first experience organizing was in college, when she led the fight against a fraternity group who marched on campus wearing Confederate soldier uniforms.
“It was our voices, our collective voices, organizing not just the black students but also the white students, that we were able to stop that practice,” Edwards said.
She also touts her work organizing Fort Washington residents during the development of National Harbor to ensure the shoreline remained open to the public and union jobs would be available there.
She pledges on her campaign website to continue standing up to developers if chosen to be county executive. Edwards said in the announcement video that her priorities if elected include education, health care and preventing domestic violence. She called the domestic violence programs in this county “revolutionary.”
In health care, she pledged to make the new county hospital a “world class” facility and support community health clinics to increase access to care.
“I think about some people trying to navigate a system that is very, very complex and I think it’s very important for policymakers to understand that,” Edwards said. “And frankly, at a local level, there a lot of things that we can do that can improve the health and the health prospects of our citizens.”
Edwards has personal experience with the healthcare system. In 2016, just after her Senate campaign concluded, Edwards was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. She announced the diagnosis in a letter to her former colleagues in the House in the midst of the first debate about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare.
“If we return to a time when people with preexisting conditions can be charged more than healthy people, it will surely result in my never being able to afford insurance again. If we return to a time of lifetime caps, I will no longer have health insurance,” she wrote in the letter published in The Washington Post July 7.
On the topic of education, Edwards said she wants to reduce class sizes and redirect the dollars already being spent on education to support teachers over administrators and modernize local school buildings.
“They’re not all going to amazing schools. If we’re asking our kids to grow up and participate in a 21st-century economy, then we cannot have them going to school 20th century schools,” she said. “We have enough money in our school system, but we need to deploy the resources in a very different way.”
Edwards joins a Democratic field that includes current State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, current state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, former Obama staffer Paul Montiero and Forestville resident Lewis Johnson. Her announcement dropped one day after news site Maryland Matters published the results of a poll commissioned by the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable about the county executive race.
The poll, which surveyed 407 registered Democratic voters, found Alsobrooks with a slight edge over Edwards; 37 percent of respondents favored Alsobrooks compared to 33 percent who favored Edwards. But Edwards edged out her fellow female candidate in terms of name recognition, with only 3 percent of voters polled not recognizing Edwards’ name compared to 20 percent who did not recognize Alsobrooks’ name.
The poll results showed also 21 percent of respondents undecided on who to support in the Democratic primary, while 8 percent supported Muse and 1 percent supported Monteiro.
Either Edwards or Alsobrooks would be the first African-American female elected county executive, should one of them win in the June 26 primary and Nov. 6 general elections.