On March 19th, 2015, I got an e-mail from EMILY’S LIST – an PAC dedicated to promoting pro-choice Democratic women – announcing that they were going to be endorsing two black women who were running for Senate. I was immediately piqued, and went on-line to see who they were. One was Kamala Harris, California’s State Attorney General and the other was Donna Edwards, a Maryland Congresswoman. The idea of a black woman from Maryland in the Senate really energized me. It had been 17 years since Carol Moseley Braun was in the Senate, and I felt that, if Donna Edwards stood for my values, I would do everything I could to get her elected. So I started digging around. I went to her Congressional website, I went to Votesmart.org, I googled all of the articles I could about her. And what emerged was a very bold, energized, progressive woman, who stood up for what she believed in. She stood up for women, organizing a coalition to address domestic violence. She stood up for science, as a former writer at NASA Goddard, and on the Science and Technology committee in Congress, winning funding for research and STEM education. She stood up for ex-offenders, building coalitions between charities and business owners, to get ex-offenders good paying jobs. She stood with Obama in support of free community college, but also made a point of visiting schools, public and private, around Maryland to understand their issues. She fought for funding to get after school meals for children living in poverty.
To say the least, I was excited. This was a candidate who really shared my values. Now, I should point out that the fact that she was a black woman caught my interest, but I was wary. There are currently two black men in the Senate, Tim Scott and Corey Booker. I also did some research on them. Tim Scott does not share my values. He is a Tea Party Republican, who is convinced that because a white majority elected him, racism is dead. I was so unprepared to learn of someone so completely deluded about the state of America in the 21st century. It shattered any notion that being black – or being a woman – meant that someone automatically deserved my vote. And it made me realize how much more important it was for me that Donna Edwards be elected to the Senate. Here was someone who represented me on every level.
So I started to get involved. I went to her website, www.donnaedwardsforsenate.com and signed up. I called around until I found her press secretary and expressed my interest. I liked her on Facebook. And I started to tell everyone who would listen that Donna Edwards was “the real deal”: a progressive candidate who would stand up for Marylanders, using her personal experiences as a black woman, as a single mom, as a community organizer, to make a difference. And my enthusiasm was noticed. I got a call one day from the campaign saying that Donna Edwards would be in Baltimore, and would I like to meet her.
Now, I don’t get many chances to rub elbows with greatness. Twenty-five years ago, I saw Senator Teddy Kennedy walk down the hall of my jobsite in Hudson, MA, surrounded by media and attendants, emanating power. Twelve years ago, I shook hands with Senator John Kerry, after campaigning for him in Greensboro, NC. A chance to actually have a conversation with a Congresswoman was on a whole different level. What would I say, what would I ask, what could I do to make the most of this opportunity? I had a few hot buttons of my own, but I realized that if I wanted to convince others to support her, I had to cast my net wider. So I asked my friends. What would you ask someone who was running for Senate? And they gave me a list. A very long list. I wrote it all down, and took it with me.
I met Donna Edwards in front of the Cross Street market on a mild Saturday afternoon, joined by two friends who also wanted to meet her. I shook her hand, told her my name, and showed her my list. She smiled, and began to talk.
- She talked about having a father and a brother in the armed forces, caring about veterans issues and noting that efforts were being made to meld military and veteran databases so that military leaving the service would get a continuum of care. She also said that Maryland has one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, and addressing veteran issues was a personal priority.
- She talked about the national crisis of police brutality how good policemen did not want to be tainted by the actions of bad ones, and that creating a culture in which they could speak up would weed out the bad apples, and we would start to see change. She also talked about the importance of community policing, of weeding out candidates who were not psychologically appropriate, and encouraging candidates to apply who reflected the communities they served.
- She talked about her respect for the need for a strong Israel, but also for a Palestinian state. She had not seen Netanyahu when he came to visit. She also explained that she stood with the president on his deal with Iran, and that enough work had been done to shape the bill to give Congress say on Iran negotiations – it was now a bill that the president was willing to sign.
- She talked about the American crisis of caregiving, the toll it was taking on ordinary people, especially the sandwich generation, and how it was recognized. That the Child Care Tax Credit was also for individuals with elderly dependents, and efforts were being made to enable caregivers to get more support and training in their roles.
There were other things on my list and I’m sorry to say, she did not get to them all. I had to share her with my friends and they also had questions and concerns. But all in all, in walking and talking, she gave us three hours of her time.
More than ever, I want to fight to see this woman get elected to the Senate. I want to talk about Donna Edwards to anyone who will listen, I want to find others who want to campaign for her, I want to invite others to find out who she is and what she stands for, and see what I see. Bold, energized, progressive. That’s Donna Edwards. And that’s the kind of Senator Maryland needs and deserves.
If you’re interested in actively campaigning or want to contribute, please go to http://donnaedwardsforsenate.com