While Donna Edwards sipped a cup of coffee and enjoyed the warm air outside a commons area at National Harbor, several people greeted the former congresswoman who represented parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties for eight years.
When Edwards shook their hands, she informed them she announced a few hours prior Thursday, Oct. 5 her intentions to run for Prince George’s County executive in the June primary.
“I have to look over everything,” said Vann B. Jones of Upper Marlboro. “There are a lot of candidates, but [Edwards] does come highly considered for me.”
Edwards, who lost to Sen. Chris Van Hollen in last year’s Democratic primary for Senate, posted a video message on YouTube to briefly explain her purpose to be the county’s top leader.
The more than 4-minute video talks of her family, including her father who served in the Air Force, her work with community leaders to secure National Harbor and her time in Congress from 2008 until January. She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Maryland.
Edwards also talked about health care, being an “independent decision-maker” and incorporate technology to improve the county’s public schools.
In less than 70 minutes after Edwards’ released the video, she felt relaxed.
“It’s amazing once you make a decision about something you’re wrestling with, you feel liberated,” she said in an interview. “I just feel really good about the decision not just about me, but what it could mean for the county.”
Because Prince George’s has a nearly 10-to-1 ratio of Democrats over Republicans, the winner in the primary more than likely will succeed in the general election November 2018.
Edwards, 59, enters a race against two other popular county lawmakers in the June 2018 primary.
State Sen. C. Anthony Muse, 59, (D-District 26) of Accokeek has worked in the Maryland General Assembly more than 20 years and hasn’t been shy to contest certain policies against his Democratic colleagues.
State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks of Upper Marlboro was elected in 2010 and became the youngest ever chosen to the position. For the past seven years, Alsobrooks, 46, has led an office of more than 200 people as one of a handful of Black prosecutors in the country.
Paul Monteiro, 36, who worked for former President Barack Obama, will make his first foray into seeking a political office. According to county election records, Lewis S. Johnson also filed to run for the position.
The current term for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III expires next year and he’s running in the Democratic primary for governor.
As for Edwards, education will be a major focus in her campaign.
For instance, she said more funding should focus on reducing class sizes by adding more teachers and classroom space.
She said economic development helps improve education, especially working with high-tech employers such as the University of Maryland in College Park, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in Camp Springs.
Similar to college fairs she organized as a congresswoman, she would connect students with professionals in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field.
Students can see and talk “to researchers and astronauts and technicians and engineers. That way they can actually see who they want to be and see the pathway that gets them there,” she said. “If you don’t have an education, your ability to move forward … is really jeopardized.”
Edwards, born in Yanceyville, North Carolina, received a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University in 1980 and a juris doctor degree at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire in 1989.
Her life in a military family prepared her to travel, but she’s settled in Prince George’s for about 35 years with her work as a community activist and a leader in private sector organizations that included the Arca Foundation.
She received national attention when she revealed in July she has multiple sclerosis, which the national organization details as a disease it attacks the central nervous system made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
She has made the rounds on podcasts and national television talk shows, including an Oct. 1 appearance on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the infighting among Republicans and President Trump’s criticism of protests by NFL players.
As she continues her work as a consultant with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, she must focus on ways to convince Prince Georgians how she’ll govern in the jurisdiction of more than 900,000.
“I believe in transparency and accountability for elected officials and for government operations,” she said. “We’re going to hold to that balance when I’m county executive.”