Though Jazz Lewis became a Maryland state delegate through selection rather than election, he wants to prove to the voters of the 24th legislative district that he is worth a full four-year term in Annapolis.
In January 2017, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee selected Lewis to replace Maryland Del. Michael Vaughn. Vaughn resigned on Jan. 11 due to health reasons, although he was also embroiled in a bribery scandal. Lewis’s appointment was supported by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), as required by the Maryland State Constitution, and he took office on Feb. 10, 2017.
“I am running for election this year,” Lewis told the AFRO. “I want to prove to the members of the Prince George’s Democratic Committee and the voters in the 24th legislative district that they made the right choice. I am a progressive with a background in organizing in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, and I want to help legislate policies that changes things.”
Lewis, a longtime resident of Prince George’s County, lives with his wife, Aurin, in Glenarden. He graduated from Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale and in 2011 got his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy in 2014.
Lewis has close ties with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who serves as the House Democratic Whip. Lewis works for Hoyer for Congress, the representatives’ political organization as its executive director. He is also closely aligned with Maryland State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-District 24) and is expected to run for election with Benson and Maryland State Del. Erek Barron (D-District 24) as his slate partners in the Democratic primary on June 26.
There are three delegate positions open in 2018, with Barron and Lewis as incumbents and Maryland Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard (D-District 24) planning to retire at the end of the year.
Candidates for 24th district delegates include Capitol Heights Mayor Marnitta King, Prince George’s County Council member Andrea Harrison (D-District 5), Prince George’s County Young Democrats leader Maurice Simpson, and Seat Pleasant businesswoman LaTasha Ward.
The 24th legislative District is located in the central western part of the county, bordering the District of Columbia’s Northeast and Southeast quadrants and is 85.2 percent Black, according to the 2010 census.
While a delegate, Lewis supported legislation to reform the criminal justice system, help minority firms get federally certified for contracts on the state and federal level, and expand access to the ballot.
Regarding the criminal justice system, Lewis wants to impose harsher criminal penalties on people who assault public transportation operators, repealing laws for sodomy and other unconventional sex acts, and allowing defendants to pay their fines in a deferred payment.
Lewis supports the controversial bill moving management of the Prince George’s County School System from the county executive to a fully elected school board. Also, he is sponsoring a bill with Benson offering tax incentives to grocers, profit and non-profit, willing set up stores in the county’s food deserts.
“When the Safeway left Seat Pleasant in July 2016, there were a lot of complaints from seniors that they don’t have easy access to healthy fruit and vegetables,” he said. “My bill will see that stores such as Good Food Markets that is set to come to Seat Pleasant will have the support they need from the government to move into the county’s food deserts that tend to be in Inner-Beltway markets.”