Prince George’s House nominee would make history, Dan Cox’s new gig, keeping up with Speaker Jones

MARYLAND MATTERS: The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee unanimously chose Ashanti Martinez to fill a vacant Maryland House of Delegates seat.

The committee will send Martinez’s name to Gov. Wes Moore (D), who has up to 15 days to make the appointment official.

Martinez said he would also make history as the first Latino to represent District 22 and the first openly gay member of the legislature to represent Prince George’s.

“It really warms my heart to see that a lot of the work that I’ve been doing has been noticed,” Martinez, 26, said during the virtual public hearing Thursday. “I just look forward working with all of you to continuing that work.”

Martinez would replace Alonzo Washington (D), who the committee selected Jan. 21 and Moore appointed six days later as a state senator to replace former Sen. Paul Pinsky (D). Moore picked Pinsky in December to head the Maryland Energy Administration.

Washington spoke on behalf of Martinez, whom he worked with at CASA.

Besides praising his work as a community activist and pushing for the Purple Line light-rail project to be completed, Washington offered Martinez some advice before he settles into Annapolis.

“I’m just going to let you know [to] always plug in the ethernet cord when you get here because the Wi-Fi here isn’t that great,” Washington said.

Martinez also received support from fellow Democrats and future District 22 teammates, Dels. Anne Healey and Nicole Williams.

If appointed, Martinez said he would step down as chief of staff for Prince George’s County Councilmember Krystal Oriadha (D).

“For people like myself and Ashanti sometimes it felt like there wasn’t space for us in politics,” said Oriadha, who became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the council. “For so many young people seeing him…centering their issues will mean so much. It will mean they will have a voice and space in politics. That’s what representation does.”

Before Tuesday’s deadline to submit a resume and letters of interest to the committee, Rush Baker and Molly McKee-Seabrook expressed interest in the vacant seat. But chose to withdraw their names for consideration after Washington publicly endorsed Martinez on Saturday.

Martinez ran in 2018 and came in fifth place in the Democratic primary. He sought the seat again in the July primary coming in fourth place by nearly 800 votes behind Healey.

The District 22 area that includes Hyattsville, New Carrollton and Riverdale Park could also house the FBI headquarters in Greenbelt if it moves from its current location in D.C.

Meanwhile in neighboring Montgomery County, an appointment contest brews for the vacant Senate seat to represent District 16 in the Bethesda area.

The District 16 Democratic Club hosted a public forum Wednesday with the three contenders: Del. Ariana Kelly (D); Scott Webber, a real estate agent and technology consultant; and Jason Woodward, a home builder.

The county’s Democratic Central Committee will hold a special meeting Tuesday to choose one of the three to replace former Sen. Susan Lee, who Moore picked as secretary of state.

Dan Cox’s new gig

Dan Cox is back in a legislature — as chief of staff to Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Cox, a former delegate who represented Frederick County in the Maryland General Assembly, and Mastriano campaigned with one another during their failed bids for governor last year.

Both were backed by former President Donald Trump.

Cox lost Maryland by 32 points and was out of an elective job because of the state’s election cycle. Mastriano lost to Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) by nearly 15 points, but remains in the state Senate until his term expires in 2024.

Cox was with Mastriano earlier this week at a ceremony to honor the passage of a “blue light law” in Pennsylvania that will allow tow trucks to install flashing lights for greater protection as they provide emergency roadside help.

In Maryland, Cox continues to practice law and recently hosted a Facebook broadcast he called “It’s your freedom,” which he hopes to extend to other platforms. In the first broadcast, Cox rattled through pending bills in the Maryland General Assembly and urged supporters to oppose their passage. He recorded the episode during the State of the Union on Tuesday night, which he referred to as the “State of Confusion.”

Cox’s new gig was first reported by on Twitter by Politico reporter Holly Otterbein.

Tick tock

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) is known around the State House for keeping her chamber running on time.

She was so eager for a joint news conference with Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) to begin on Thursday, that she kept vigil near the State House steps, waiting for Moore to arrive.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) waited for Gov. Wes Moore (D) and other lawmakers to arrive before the start of a press conference on Thursday, greeting the governor in the State House lobby before the event began. Photos by William F. Zorzi.

The news conference announcing a package of reproductive health measures was scheduled for 10:45 a.m. — and the ever-punctual speaker was ready to go, as she stood in a hallway off the State House rotunda looking over her prepared remarks.

Much of the General Assembly leadership and abortion rights proponents had dutifully assembled around the podium after the morning Senate and House sessions, waiting for the show to begin.

As the minutes ticked by, Jones began to fidget. She already had hinted publicly to Moore that he was taking too long getting to the front of the House of Delegates as he made his way through a crowd of legislators to the dais to deliver his State of the State speech last Wednesday.

Jones looked at her watch. She looked up the empty marble stairs. She gestured to Moore’s legislative director Eric Luedtke, who was himself waiting halfway up the stairs, tapping the watch on her wrist. He sort of shrugged: What are you going to do?

Finally, the plainclothes Maryland State Troopers got the word that Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) were on the way, and both Jones and Ferguson moved to the foot of the stairs. The speaker folded her arms, seeming to stop just short of tapping her foot. Her head was cocked to one side, only half-kidding.

At 11:04 a.m. — 19 minutes after the appointed hour — the governor and lieutenant governor appeared on the steps. Moore was grinning widely, as he walked directly to Jones and hugged her. He appeared to have gotten the message. Again.

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