By Matthew Ritchie, Special to the AFRO
The tightest contest of the Maryland State Senate has finally come to a close. On July 6, weeks after the official primary election voting ended, Del. Mary Washington claimed her victory over the incumbent, longtime Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who had represented the 43rd District in the Senate since 1997. Washington announced her win on her Facebook page.
The difference in votes between the two candidates was slim, as Washington defeated Conway by 492 votes in the 43rd District of East Baltimore. Conway was the chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and a powerful member of the Senate. Washington’s victory and subsequent ousting of Conway represents an end of an era in Maryland politics.
Conway had the support of the old guard of the Maryland Democrats, Senate President Mike Miller and Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh. Following her defeat, Conway told reporters she will be fine. She had been quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying, “There’s nothing going to change for Joan,” referring to herself in the third person. “Something will definitely change for Baltimore City.” Before the primary election, Conway had discussed the possibility of retiring from public service.
Washington, who has been a member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 2011, looks to bring about distinct change and growth to the 43rd District. In statements made to the Baltimore Sun this past April, Washington made it apparent that she wants to reverse the tide of “backroom” deals in order to get her district the legislation that it deserves. Washington did not return calls to the AFRO.
During her 7+ year tenure in the House of Delegates, Washington has established herself as a legislator, advocate, and a fighter. She continually went to battle for her district in order to provide affordable access to water, secure equal funding for Baltimore City schools in the face of rising inequality, and to shield families from foreclosure due to unfair tax sales.
Washington’s win allows her to proceed with attempting to fulfill promises to the 43rd District that she made during her campaign.
In terms of education, she looks to move forward with the “Kirwan Commission” formula in order to shift public education funding to increase support for schools that have high amounts of concentrated poverty and to promote racial equity. Another one of her education plans is to establish an emergency repair fund for school districts to fix schools with the most urgent needs.
She also plans to focus her efforts on improving the communities within her district. She plans to advocate for funding for after-school programs and job training in her district, which she has cited as helping to reduce crime. Washington also wants to abolish mandatory sentencing and will lobby for police reform that is centered on civilian oversight.
Economically, she plans to continue to support the movement to provide a living minimum wage at $15 per hour, a cause she supported as a member of the House of Delegates. Washington will also look to ensure that employers that have contracts with the state and large businesses will be required to provide health insurance to their employees.
With there being no Republican candidate for the 43rd District, Washington will look to get right to work once she takes office in January 2019.