A Maryland Scramble Candidate Questionnaire

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After the D20 candidate forum on Tuesday, I decided to do my own questions (since mine didn’t get asked at the event). I believe, as a former candidate who’s been through more of these than I care to count, that the best questions are the ones designed to elicit different answers from the candidates. Asking about issues where there’s clear consensus just yields a chorus of “me too” answers that don’t really shed any light on who is the best candidate.

So I formulated two questions that I think will shed some light, and I’ve now received answers from five of the six D20 candidates (I will publish Amy Cress’ responses when I get them, but I wanted to get this out before the event this evening). Set forth below are the questions, with answers from each candidate. I’ve done nothing but cut and paste the responses from the emails from each candidate. No proofreading or editing from me.

Here we go. The responses are in order of when I received them.

QUESTION 1:

One of you is going to be appointed to be a delegate on January 9. The 2017 legislative session starts on January 11. How do you plan to accomplish this almost immediate transition to a new job? What personal/political/logistical support systems do you have in place to help navigate this new position? Who are the people outside District 20 that you intend to look to for political guidance and support?

LORIG CHARKOUDIAN

I have been working intensely on three bills since August. The Mental Health Treatment Over Incarceration Bill is being introduced by Delegate Erek Barron, the Maryland Farms and Families Act is being introduced by Senator Middleton, and the Task Force on Restorative Practices in Schools is being introduced by Delegate Alonzo Washington. I have had significant influence on these bill and I have been coordinating the coalitions which will see them through to success. I hope to be in the House of Delegates to carry on this work from the inside. In addition, I have been tracking several other bills related to health care, education, sexual assault, mental health issues, bail reform, economic justice, immigration, affordable housing, Atrazene, and fracking. While I will surely have a lot to learn once I arrive, I have some sense of what we will be dealing with and which issues I will be championing. I have good working relationships with several elected Democratic officials from across the county and the state, with whom I will work and seek guidance. I also have relationships with some Republican elected officials, and I intend to build on these for bi-partisan opportunities that may arise.  

On the personal side, I have contingency plans in place. I have spoken with the Board of Directors that supervises me about shifting my responsibilities and a different kind of position. I have spoken to family members who will assist with childcare. I will be ready to pour myself into the Legislative Session 110%

DANIEL KOROMA

All new jobs come with a transition. This is no exception. However, because of my background working with Montgomery County government and legislators over the years, and because of my close connections to the communty, this transition will be relatively smooth. I have experience with the legislative process working with local organizations to advocate for bills. These personal and grassroots relationships are the systems that would help me be an effective legislator in Annapolis.  

What personal/political/logistical support systems do you have in place to help navigate this new position? 

ANS: Because I am a long-time resident of District 20, I have years of built strong relationships with the legislators from here and with and other members of the Montgomery County delegation.

Who are the people outside District 20 that you intend to look to for political guidance and support?

ANS: Transportation is one of my top legislative priorities, so Delegate Kumar Barve, who chairs the Environment and Transportation Committee, and Del. Shane Robinson, a member of that committee, are two people I would look to for guidance and support. There are also many people in the community who I have met over the years who have offered guidance and welcome advice on a variety of issues, and I would certainly continue to listen to them.

DARIAN UNGER

Hi Jonathan. Thanks for your question. Yes, I will hit the ground running because of a mid-term appointment. Here, my experience in Annapolis will help tremendously.  

My previous work — testifying in front of the Judiciary Committee on domestic violence legislation, working on legislative wording on renewable energy, and lobbying both the House and Senate for public transit — taught me how to navigate Annapolis, which will allow me to be more effective from the start.

Logistically, I have mentors in both the House and State Senate who have offered guidance. Senator Cardin — now in Washington DC — also offered his mentorship specifically from his days the House of Delegates.

Personally, I am grateful to have tremendous family and community support, without which none of my efforts would be possible. I thank them tremendously.  

YVETTE BUTLER-YEBOAH

I made the decision to seek the Maryland House of Delegates District 20 seat with full understanding of how quickly I would be thrust into the role. I have a team of staff to assume the daily operations of my organization so my focus and priority are becoming acclimated with the position’s responsibilities. I have a campaign team that has been supporting me through this public service journey, and it will help me navigate the logistics of taking office.

I will use my local, state, and federal political experience to facilitate my transition. I have extensive knowledge of creating budgets, working strategically within groups to accomplish tasks and build consensus, and ensuring that community members’ voices are considered. I also have experience leading initiatives from conception to solution implementation or reconciliation, for example, health care issues such as HIV awareness and prevention. Additionally, I will use my experience in helping to identify community-driven solutions for social, educational, and economic disparities within our community to usher me into issue resolution as a Delegate.

Via my professional and public service work across the County and state, I’ve been afforded opportunities to forge and leverage important and lasting relationships. I will continue to lead on these networks and relationships to guide, inform, and support my efforts politically. These include community- and faith-based organizations, public officials at the state, County Council, and School Board levels, as well as local chapters of national organizations. I have been a grassroots campaigner for many officials, including U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Jamie Raskin, State Senator William Smith, County Executive Ike Leggett, Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Congressman Anthony Brown, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, State Senator Anthony Muse and many others. I have also developed a network of support in Annapolis with other Delegates and State Senators who will support me in this transition. I have been studying the issues and monitoring Governor Hogan’s stance on the various matters that will affect our community. I am ready and willing to work with the other delegates in Annapolis to ensure the preservation and safeguarding of our communities.

JHEANELLE WILKINS
I think it’s important that the person appointed to represent District 20 in the Maryland House of Delegates is well-positioned to hit the ground running on January 11. The time I have spent in Annapolis working with legislators and community organizations to pass numerous bills positions me to be ready for the job. However, I think any candidate will have a learning curve and I am comfortable with asking questions and reaching out for support and mentorship. Over the years, I’ve built a strong working relationship with the District 20 delegation—Sen. Will Smith, Del. Sheila Hixson and Del. David Moon. The District 20 delegation is a strong team and our existing working relationship would enable me to seamlessly join their effective work. My support system will also include other members of the Montgomery County delegation and colleagues in other areas of the state, including Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, where I have relationships. Many of these elected officials have already extended their support in navigating the position if I am appointed. I would lean on these networks for support and to advance District 20’s priorities.

Another way to effectively accomplish this transition is that I would make it a top priority to meet with my committee’s leadership to get up to speed on priorities and important information. 
In addition, I have begun to review the bills that have been pre-filed in the Maryland General Assembly so that I am prepared.

With the current vacancy, District 20 is missing leadership in responding to constituent concerns. An immediate priority will be to develop a robust constituent services program to respond to the various needs of District 20 residents. This will include hiring staff and developing a process for responding to constituent concerns that includes coordinating with the District 20 delegation.

QUESTION 2:

Understanding that you don’t actually have any choice in the matter, what House committee would you most like to serve on, and what skills and/or experience do you bring to the table that make you believe you would be a good fit for that committee?

LORIG CHARKOUDIAN

My top preference would be the Judiciary Committee. I have worked on bills in front of the Judiciary Committee for over 15 years. I want to continue champing criminal justice reform, most of which is done on the Judiciary Committee. I am also interested in Health and Government Operations. This is where a lot of the mental health reform bills that I have worked on and want to focus on will be heard. I have also worked with Economic Matters and several issues of importance to me will be heard in that committee. I have done work to support local food production and sustainable agriculture, much of which is heard on the Environment and Transportation Committee, so I would be happy there as well. I recognize that I could be assigned to any committee leadership chooses to assign me to. I intend to use my breadth of skill and commitment to social justice to serve D20 and the State well in any committee to which I am assigned.

DANIEL KOROMA

Because economic development is so vital to many parts of District 20, that fact, plus my experience in banking and business development would make for a best fit on the Economic Matters Committee. I would also ask to be on the Environment and Transportation Committee given my outreach work with the County’s Department of Environmental Protection and my building coalition to advocate for the Purple Line.

DARIAN UNGER

Yes, if appointed, my choice will be limited because I will be succeeding a delegate mid-term who was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. As a result, I would most likely be placed in Judiciary Committee, where I would roll up my sleeves to improve domestic violence legislation, strengthen civil rights, and expand criminal justice reform efforts. My experience as chair of the Montgomery County American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would help tremendously here, as the ACLU often testifies before this committee. My experience as a firefighter and EMT — where I often work closely with Montgomery County police officers, and as a professor at Howard University would also play an important role in my understanding and improvements of legislation.  

I would also like to serve on the Environment and Transportation Committee, where my years of experience and expertise can make a substantial difference in Annapolis. Here, my work as an environmental engineer and a longtime environmental and public transit activist would play a critical role in my work. I will pioneer new ways to incentivize renewable energy, build needed public transit, and improve the many state-controlled roads that in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. As the former chair of the Silver Spring Transportation Committee, I also have many years of experience in dealing with the State Highway Administration (SHA), and am eager to make that state agency more accountable to neighborhood needs and pedestrian safety.  

YVETTE BUTLER-YEBOAH

I would most like to serve on the Health & Government Operations Committee and Public Health & Minority Health Disparities subcommittee. As a physician and researcher with a focus on health disparities, I know the emerging and existing demands of public health resources and the rapidity with which they change. I also have experience and extensive knowledge in research, policy review, and first- hand familiarity with regulatory affairs it relates to service provision. I know that Montgomery County and the State of Maryland must respond to these demands, for example, any modifications to the Affordable Care Act and health among immigrant populations, with sound policy and regulation development, coupled with intergovernmental communication. Anything short of this will have an adverse effect on service provision and the health and safety of our communities.

We have to be acutely aware of the direction and intentions of a changing national administration and its trickle-down-effect. We must be proactive as a state and anticipate and mitigate challenges. As a researcher, I am always looking at other communities, states, regions, and countries and how they handle situations to develop a comparison base for problem solving. As a member of the Health & Government Operations Committee, I offer that ability as a necessary skill to move purposely and effectively on public health issues. Here in Maryland, we need to be prepared and I am ready day one to serve District 20 and lead the charge.

JHEANELLE WILKINS

Although I would be grateful to be appointed to serve on any committee, I am interested in serving on the Environment and Transportation committee, led by Montgomery County’s Kumar Barve. Given the many transportation projects in District 20 that will be implemented over the next few years, I think having representation from our district on this committee is important. The experience I bring is from advocating with community leaders and organizations to fight for the Purple Line and Bus Rapid Transit. I have also advocated for environmental issues such as the ban on fracking in 2014 and want to be on the front lines of protecting our environment and leading the green economy agenda in Maryland.

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