East Baltimore Del. Cory McCray (D-45) had a copy of the late Marion Barry’s book, “Mayor For Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.,” tucked under his arm as he sat down for an interview at the AFRO’s Baltimore headquarters recently.
Perhaps McCray, who recently launched his bid to unseat Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-45), the venerable East Baltimore politician, hoped to understand some of Barry’s legendary grit by reading his autobiography. Yet, grit is an attribute McCray’s supporters argue he has already exhibited in abundance during his brief political career and his life before he entered politics.
McCray, 35, a husband and father of four young children said he has been hitting the streets hard since September, engaging current constituents, as well as those whose vote he hopes to earn in 2018.
“It’s been intense…everyday waking up knowing you’re all in, all the cards are on the table,” McCray said. “A lot of folks are like…sometimes people think like, `Hey, you still get to be a delegate.’ No, you don’t get to be a delegate if you don’t win. It’s very intense from when you wake up until you go to sleep.”
McCray, who entered the House of Delegates in January 2015, learned about an apprenticeship opportunity at age 18 after scrapes with the law as a teenager, and joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at age 19. By age 20 he was a homeowner and throughout his 20’s he built a small business focused on rental properties.
“A lot of people will say, `Cory, you’re young you can just wait him (McFadden) out.’ The challenge is the city is in such challenging turmoil right now that you can no longer wait things out,” McCray said.
Beyond the ubiquitous issues of crime, poverty and unemployment, McCray specifically points to the 21st Century Schools initiative, a billion dollar plan crafted by Baltimore City Public Schools and other agencies, to create, “future-focused, adaptable, sustainable and high-quality schools that inspire learning and support the educational success of Baltimore City Public Schools students,” according to their website. However, McCray said the new plan to modernize or rebuild dozens of schools disparages his district, the poorest in East Baltimore. He cast much of the blame upon McFadden, as a “major reason” why he decided to challenge the veteran senator.
“When I broke it down…I see seven schools in the 41st District, six schools in the 40th District, five schools in the 46th District, four schools in the 43rd District and two schools in my district,” McCray said. “We’re coming up short when you look at this equation. These are 35, 40 million dollar investments…who was at this table when this deal got cut? So, the people that aren’t paying attention, the people that are the weakest…although the perception is you may look the strongest, but you may be the weakest. They take from that plate.”
Despite his jovial demeanor, McCray’s indictment of McFadden, 71, who has been in the Maryland Senate since 1995 and President Pro Tem (second in command to Senate President Mike Miller) since 2007, is searing.
“The reality is that the senator is the highest ranking person on the state level for that respective district. It is your job as the senator to pay attention to the appropriations, especially sitting on the Budget and Taxation Committee and just be mindful of how many dollars are coming to your district. That’s why people send you to office for, to bring the bacon home,” McCray said.
Perhaps, in the manner of Marion Barry and other pioneering Black politicians like Maynard Jackson of Atlanta, McCray said early on as a Delegate he was interested in leveraging meager power into more power.
“When I first got into office I said, ‘Who is getting money from the state of Maryland in my district?’ That’s where you start at…Go to where the money is,” McCray explained. He says he went to some of the developers in his district that have benefitted most from the state’s financial largesse and had conversations about investing in the residents of some of poorest communities in Baltimore.
“I got them to sign an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding), an MOU really doesn’t have any teeth, because I’m not going to go sue them if they don’t do it. But, it is a conversation starter and it let’s them know that I understand how much power I do have.”
The AFRO reached out by phone and email to the office of Sen. McFadden for a response to the assertions made by Del. McCray. McFadden’s office did not reply before press time.