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Familiar names seek new offices in General Assembly

SEABROOK – Primary election voters will see some familiar names on the ballot next June, and many of those candidates will be seeking new offices within the General Assembly.

Ron Watson, a former elected member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, and Nicole Williams, a Democratic Central Committee member, hope to be chosen for delegate seats come June, while current Del. Carlo Sanchez (D-47B) is seeking a promotion to state senate.

Current state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-47) announced Sept. 9 he is giving up his seat to run for Prince George’s County state’s attorney, leaving his senate seat open. Sanchez, who represents District 47B (part of the larger 47th senatorial district), said he wants to continue Ramirez’s strong leadership in the Senate.

“I think we’re kind of learning a lesson nationally that sometimes you need people that have some sort of experience,” he said. “People deserve to have representatives that can hit the ground running.”

He said if elected, his priorities would include public safety, maintaining the character of the district’s communities in the face of the changes the Purple Line light rail project will bring, and supporting county public schools.

“We’ve been able to bring back record funding for the public school system the last few years, but I think it’s time to prepare our schools for the 21st century,” he said, adding that renovating and replacing the county’s aging school buildings will likely be a main topic of conversation in Annapolis.

Sanchez also said he is enjoying hearing from residents of his district about what their priorities are and hopes to balance those ideas with his own, to, as he puts it, “figure out how to kind of add that together.”

In addition to being a delegate, Sanchez also serves on the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee – a role he shares with Nicole Williams, a candidate for delegate in District 22.

Williams is a real-estate attorney in Washington, D.C. but has participated in county politics for years. Her titles have included former president of the Prince George’s County Young Democrats and Judicial Council Chair of the Young Democrats of America, as well as current president of the Roosevelt Democratic Club in Greenbelt, where she resides.

But Williams says her personal history is just as important in qualifying her for the delegate job.

“Because I come from a working-class family, I think I am able to empathize with a lot of constituents in my district,” she said. “I’m a hard worker. I’m a worker bee. I’m also a bit of a policy wonk.”

Williams’ priorities include education – namely recruiting and retaining good teachers, reducing class sizes and bringing home more school construction money to District 22. In terms of higher education, Williams supports debt-free college, because she says as a young, “millennial professional,” she sees firsthand the impact student loans have on people.

She will also advocate for increased affordable housing options.

“Most people who make even minimum wage, a large portion of their income goes to housing,” she said. “It’s so expensive.”

Williams also supports renewable energy as a wise investment for the public sector and as a promising avenue on which to focus workforce development efforts.

Renewable energy features into one of the signature proposals of Ron Watson, candidate for delegate in District 23B. Watson has previously served as an at-large elected member of the county school board, was appointed to the Blue Ribbon Commission on addressing the county’s structural deficit and serves on the board of the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce.

Watson said the county’s schools have unique needs, with a high percentage of English Language Learner students, students with disabilities and families on free and reduced lunch, which also means Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) budget requests are large. He believes solar panels on the roofs of the county’s large school could help reduce energy costs, freeing up funds for other projects.

Watson also has a plan to increase communication with residents in the unincorporated parts of the district. Watson feels the divide in economic growth and opportunity felt between Bowie and Upper Marlboro can be partially explained by the organizational resources Bowie has, and he wants to help unite residents in the other parts of the district in a similar way.

“One of the things I want to do is to put a mechanism in place where, if legislation is poised to affect 23B, I can connect with residents,” he said. “I think once we put that in place you will see a much more unified district.”

Other goals would be to support Bowie State University, improve property values in the district, devise rent stabilization measures, increase access to low-cost medications, and support senior citizens, Watson said.

And he believes his experiences on the school board, in the business community, as a U.S. Army veteran and as an appointee to several state boards have given him the tools he needs to accomplish those goals.

“I take these experiences with me to Annapolis. I’ll be extremely successful in ensuring the needs of our community are at the forefront,” Watson said. “I bring a well-rounded breadth of experience to this.”

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