By Megan Poinski
Both Sen. David Harrington and Del. Victor Ramirez feel that the next senator representing the 47th District should be someone who fights for the issues constituents of the Prince George’s County district hold dear.
The two Democrats, however, feel very differently about who is the best person to stand up for those residents in their constituency which hugs the District of Columbia line from Montgomery County to Cheverly.
Harrington, 56, was appointed to the seat after Sen. Gwendolyn Britt died in 2008. He said his experience as a mayor of Bladensburg and member of the Prince George’s County Council make him the right person to continue in office. Ramirez, who has served two terms in the House of Delegates and initially sought appointment to the Senate seat, feels that Harrington has not shown the kind of leadership the people need to see.
Ramirez, 36, has lived in District 47 since he was a child. He said that he thinks that Harrington is out of sync with the district. In 2008, when Harrington was appointed, Ramirez said he would run for the seat and confirmed that decision as this year’s session finished up.
“There is a lack of leadership on issues, and a lack of honesty on issues,” Ramirez said. “I represent a progressive district, and I think the current appointed state senator is out of touch. We have to start holding people accountable, so I am running.”
When he was selected to fill the Senate seat three years ago, Harrington had spent six years on the Prince George’s County Council, as well as served as the mayor of Bladensburg. Even though this is his first run for the Senate, Harrington feels he is not at a disadvantage. Issues handled by the Senate are the same as those handled by County Council members – just on a broader scale.
“A campaign is a campaign,” Harrington said. “Being a senator is just as local as being a county commissioner. It’s about wearing down your shoes, meeting constituents, and getting to meet and greets.”
Harrington was not surprised to find himself with a challenger. Harrington said that constituents have seemed somewhat disappointed; with so many hotly contested races in Prince George’s County this year, many voters would have liked to return efficient incumbents to office.
“I asked voters if they would have preferred not to choose sides,” Harrington said. “But it was not my decision. I would have preferred to keep working with Delegate Ramirez.”
Differences clear, challenger says, but vague
Ramirez said that the divisions in the race between himself and Harrington are very clear. Harrington, he said, has been on the “wrong side” of several important issues in the county. Ramirez said that Harrington has crossed party lines too often.
Ramirez said that he believes in smart growth, while Harrington does not. Ramirez also stands opposed to casino gambling in Prince George’s County, while he said that Harrington has supported it. And, Ramirez said, Harrington walked away from an opportunity to address problems at the hospital.
“He hasn’t come up with solutions,” Ramirez said. “I have proposed legislation to address these problems.”
In his eight years in the House, Ramirez said he has been able to build a history of activism for his district, and people in his district have been very supportive. He has received endorsements from public safety unions, as well as the Service Employees International Union.
“We’ve finished the first leg of the marathon, and I am going to finish strong,” Ramirez said.
Harrington said that he also has a long history of getting things done for his constituents through his years of service at different levels of government. Harrington’s endorsements include the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and the Maryland State Education Association.
Both have been endorsed by Equality Maryland, the political organization for gays and lesbians.
Progressive Maryland did not endorse either candidate because “our board could not come to consensus in that race,” said Rion Dennis, PM’s acting executive director. It takes a two-thirds vote of the large Progressive Maryland board to endose.
“They both have strong progressive records, and they both work with us very well,” Dennis said.