Prince George’s County school board member Raaheela Ahmed will resign on Feb. 19 and run for the Maryland Senate.
Ahmed, 28, was elected in 2016 by voters in the Bowie area, where she became known for advocating mental health services for students versus police in schools, free early childhood education and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.
Now she will seek voter approval for the June 28 primary election to represent the 23rd Legislative District that includes most of Bowie and portions of Laurel and Upper Marlboro.
“I’m really excited about to do that advocacy on the state level [and] to serve my community in a new way,” she said in an interview Thursday.
So far, two people filed for the seat before the Feb. 22 deadline, according to the Maryland Board of Elections.
Sen. Ron Watson of Upper Marlboro currently holds the seat after being appointed in August by Gov. Larry Hogan to fill the vacancy.
The other candidate, Sylvia Johnson of Bowie, was appointed in 2020 by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks to serve on the county’s Human Relations Commission. After working as a research scientist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, she founded her own health information technology and biomedical company.
As for Ahmed, she at times challenged and voted against her school board colleagues.
She was the only board member in October 2020 to vote against the multibillion-dollar public-private partnership (P3) project to build at least six new schools. Several reasons for her vote stemmed from ongoing contract negotiations in terms of funding, conditions for when students returned to school and other specific project details amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahmed and some of her progressive colleagues elected to the board clashed with board chair Juanita Miller, appointed by Alsobrooks, and three other appointed members.
One of her former colleagues, Edward Burroughs III of Temple Hills, resigned from the school board in December to run in the special election to fill the vacant District 8 seat on the county council.
As of Feb. 3, Burroughs received nearly 6,100 of the 6,497 votes tallied. The board of elections plans to certify the election Friday.
School board member Belinda Queen also plans to run for the council’s District 6 seat, but has until Feb. 22 to file her paperwork.
During Ahmed’s tenure, legislation she sponsored or helped get approved included financial literacy as a graduation requirement, additional resources for students and staff in the LGBTQ community and established Prince George’s as the first school system in the state to adopt an excused absence policy strictly for civic engagement activities.
Ahmed, a Muslim woman of South Asian descent, outlines part of her campaign platform that includes a ban on no-knock warrants, employment and tenant protections for immigrant residents and for the state legislature to livestream all committee meetings and floor votes.
By law, Alsobrooks will be allowed to name Ahmed’s replacement on the board.
“It’s hard to leave the school board, especially [since] my replacement will be an appointed person from Angela Alsobrooks,” said Ahmed, who works as a supervisor for the nonprofit Campus Vote Project based in northwest D.C. “That is very difficult because I believe in having a strong Democratic system and community input is at the forefront. I am going to the state legislature to advocate for more Democratic processes in government and in elections.”