Tessa Hill-Aston will retain her presidency of the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP after being re-elected to a fourth term Tuesday night over newcomer Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon.
“I will continue to do the things that I’m doing with the good group of people that I have working with me,” Hill-Aston said.
Hill-Aston said she looks forward to continuing her work in the areas of economic development, private sector, housing, landlords, the courts, and bridging the gap for those leaving foster care.
When she was elected to lead the Baltimore City chapter of the NAACP in 2010, Hill-Aston was the first woman to hold the position since Enolia McMillan, who ended her Baltimore tenure in 1984 and was the national NAACP president until 1990.
Witherspoon, a local minister and civil rights activist, ran on a platform to fight for racial, economic and social justice as well as the $15 minimum wage. Witherspoon earned endorsements from former NAACP presidents G.I. Johnson and Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, and was a frequent face and booming voice amid Baltimore’s uprising last year.
“I am unapologetically Black, and I don’t mind defending the rights of my community,” Witherspoon said.
More than 600 voters braved the cold weather between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Forest Park Senior Center in Northwest Baltimore to show their support for their candidates. Some complained about the long waits due to only one or two people working the polls at a time, but many exited the polling place saying they held on to make sure they cast their vote.
Many of Hill-Aston’s supporters were people that she had personally helped, while many Witherspoon supporters were looking for the change that the candidate promised.
“She’s like a mother,” said Thomas Scott, a Hill-Aston supporter. “[She] gave me a little side job and never looked at me like I was some criminal.”
“I voted for him because I believe in him,” said Etha Wilson, a Witherspoon supporter. “I believe that he can make a change and I think it’s time for a change in the NAACP and I think he’s the right man at the right time.”
Witherspoon’s campaign complained that many new NAACP members that his team helped register had not received their membership cards and were therefore unable to vote without use of a receipt system to verify their membership. However, Hill-Aston’s camp countered that they also recently registered many new members who also had to use the receipt system in lieu of a membership card.
“There was a sense of desperation,” Witherspoon said of the voting hiccups. “People want to hold on to position, especially when in positions for a long time and they feel entitled for one reason or another. And even when you have the tendency to discount the community because you’re so politically connected.”
Hill-Aston refuted claims that her work in city government would inhibit her from doing the community’s work, particularly fighting evictions in court.
“I fight the system for people,” Hill-Aston said. “What this group is trying to do is say that I work for the city so that means that I’m going to be a kiss up. The mayor and every elected official in Baltimore City knows that that’s not something in my blood.”