Jazz Lewis, a former staffer for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), has been tabbed to fill a state delegate seat representing Prince George’s County in the Maryland General Assembly, which has been vacant since Jan. 11 when Michael J. Vaughn stepped down for health reasons.
Although Lewis was chosen by the county’s Democratic Central Committee to fill the seat, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has until Feb. 8 to approve the appointment.
“I’m feeling excited that the Central Committee chose me and that my community’s behind me,” said Lewis, who worked for three years on Hoyer’s campaign staff. “I want to represent the millennials in Prince George’s County. I come from a community organizing background and I think I can leverage that in Annapolis on behalf of our district.”
The committee held a nearly three-hour hearing Jan. 24 to hear from Lewis and eight other candidates and their supporters at a packed room at the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 100 in Suitland.
Lewis and Maurice Simpson Jr., both 27, had the majority of supporters, including state senators, delegates and community leaders. Lewis received 18 committee votes and Simpson got 11.
A day after the vote, Hoyer released a statement to praise Lewis and urge Hogan to appoint him immediately.
“Jazz has been an advocate for his community throughout his life, and I know he will continue that advocacy in his new role,” he said. “I am confident Jazz will be an excellent representative for the community in which he has lived his entire life. I urge Gov. Hogan to swiftly fill the vacancy so that Jazz can fully represent the interests of the residents of Prince George’s County in the Maryland General Assembly.”
If approved, Lewis would represent Maryland’s 24th District, which includes Capitol Heights, Landover and Suitland. He would serve the remainder of Vaughn’s term, which ends next year.
Vaughn’s resignation came as federal authorities released court documents last month that charged former Prince George’s state Delegate William A. Campos, two county liquor control board members and two county businessmen in bribery scandals.
Although Vaughn hasn’t been charged with any crime, the affidavit in the liquor control board case states a member of the state’s House Economic Matters Committee voted in favor of a liquor license bill in March. Vaughn served on that committee, according to a copy of the voting record.
Those who chose Lewis, a member of the Democratic Central committee, said he will not only bring a fresh perspective in Annapolis but also integrity to fill the remainder of the term that expires next year.
“I know him and I’ve seen him in action,” said Salome Peters, who chairs the committee. “He will advocate for his constituents. I know what he can do for the community. I trust him.”
Belinda Queen-Howard, a member of the committee, chose Simpson because he doesn’t make every decision based on politics. For example, Simpson backed former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) for Senate in last year’s primary, not only to have a person from Prince George’s in the Senate, but also to send a black woman to Capitol Hill.
“He’s going to tell it like it is,” Queen-Howard said. “That is Maurice’s strength. He speaks for the people. He’s opinionated, but he’s always looking out for the people. Maurice will still be out in the community helping seniors, youth. He loves everybody.”