Donna Edwards
**FILE** Donna Edwards (Patricia Little/The Washington Informer)

Former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) had thousands of Prince George’s County residents talking when she publicly revealed in a letter last week that she has multiple sclerosis.

The letter, addressed to her former Congressional colleagues, states she received her diagnosis during a sit-in in Congress on gun control legislation in June 2016. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says the disease attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

She’s since appeared on national television talk shows and podcasts speaking about health care and her condition. If Republicans on Capitol Hill vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass their own health care legislation, she said her and others’ insurance costs would drastically increase because of pre-existing conditions.

In the meantime, the 59-year-old single mother of an adult son continues to walk and bike around a trail near her condominium at National Harbor (FYI: she addresses her mail as “Oxon Hill” because she says National Harbor resides in the Oxon Hill community).

While writing papers about criminal justice as a consultant with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University until the fall, she also talks with local community groups about problems in Prince George’s County, statewide and the country. Some of those people are encouraging Edwards to return to the public sector in a leadership capacity such as governor or county executive, but she doesn’t plan on making a decision until possibly Labor Day.

So far, five people have declared their candidacy in the Democratic primary for governor and state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek announced his run for county executive last month.

As Edwards sipped on coffee and sat on a cushioned bench Monday, July 17 at National Harbor, she spoke passionately about a variety of topics such as health care, state issues and the Prince George’s County school system.

Here are some of her thoughts, in her own words:

Health Care

“When I came into Congress, I came in on a campaign to work on the health care system. One of the first things we took on was health care. I was one of only four members who presided over the [Affordable Care Act] debate. Having my own health care issues and up to today, M.S. taught me how to start dealing with our health care system in the most profound way. The different bills you get and figuring out what your insurance pays for and what you have to pay for out of pocket. The medication I take costs about $72,000 a year. I have insurance that covers a substantial part of it, but it’s a lot of navigation. The same medication [made] by the same manufacturer costs about $7,000 a year in Europe. It makes no sense to me. I live here, so I can’t order no medication from Europe. I have to get it here. People who have cancer treatments or other kinds of chronic illnesses will tell you that their prescriptions are insane. If Republicans want to work on health care, one of the big deals would be to negotiate prescription drug prices to lower those costs. We should look at things on a bipartisan basis. Give incentives to young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act because we need more of those young and healthy people in the system. Getting rid of that ‘Cadillac tax’ [an excise tax scheduled to be levied on insurance companies in 2020], which actually penalizes people who have really good health care plans. We know there are things that could be change. This is about a system possibly being undone for millions of Americans. This is a really important debate. I just hope my personal situation [to former Congressional colleagues] illustrates how critical it is that they help people and not harm them.”

Statewide focus

“We’re an interesting state, especially here in the metropolitan region with so much of our economy designed around the federal government. I think our federal government is in transition right now because of this new administration. I think housing is a real problem in this state. I don’t think we have fully recovered from the housing crisis from 2008. Things have certainly improved, but areas in Baltimore City and in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, there’s still some concerns with affordable housing. I always viewed that affordable housing means [that] if you go to a job that pays a median income, then you should be able to live where you work and where you play. In this metropolitan region, I think our local governments can actually incentivize the development of regular working people. It can do that in areas with a mix of housing by making sure we have wages that pay people a living wage. We still have gaps. I think of folks who work in the retail sector and restaurants. Making a minimum wage or making just above a minimum wage is not a living wage for this region. I definitely support [$15 per hour] minimum wage. I think we have an economy here that can sustain it. I also believe when we raise the minimum wage for workers, they spend their money on the economy. The minimum wage doesn’t hurt your economy, it helps your economy. They buy groceries. Clothes for their children. Pay for housing. They contribute to the local economy. Whomever is going to be governor of our state is going to have to demonstrate they’re prepared to deliver for the people [from] whom they expect votes. I want to see an active Democratic governor who carries strong, progressive values to work with our legislature to build and strengthen the state.”

Prince George’s Education

“Each of us as parents want our children to do better than we do. What you do in those first few years is making sure every parent can take care and making sure every child has the fundamentals through kindergarten through high school. Young people have to be prepared to come out from high school ready to contribute to the economy, or on to community college, or to college, or some type to vocational program. We need 21st century classrooms. I am not sure we are getting that now, frankly. I have been greatly disappointed in the level of accountability from the administration to the county executive. The county executive made a chance in the school board and the school CEO. I’m not sure that change has necessarily worked in the great benefit of the vast majority of students. If you’re going to have a system where you have the CEO report to the county executive and the county executive [can appoint some members to the] school board, then there has to be accountability. I was really troubled when I read the letter from Beverly Johnson when she resigned from the school board. Her letter of resignation to the school board was very troubling because she pointed out ways that she was trying to help make a better system for students. To me, that says something when the person that was appointed by the county executive gives a very harsh critique of what is happening with the school board and school system. When you have an elected school board, the accountability is to individuals who are voters. I have not been a huge fan of the contract given to our CEO of the school system. You reward success. I don’t necessarily agree [that] what we have right now merits rewarding.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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