Tessa Hill-Aston, is planning a political comeback of sorts, running for one of three seats that will be up in the Maryland House of Delegates 41st district in West Baltimore.

Hill-Aston, former president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP who left the organization under dubious circumstances (she says she resigned, others say she was forced out) said the needs of the 41st district simply bring her back to her life-long roots of community activism. “When I started activism with the NAACP and other things, I started with committees that had to do with economic development. I worked with minorities to ensure we were getting our fair share,” Hill-Aston told the AFRO.

Tessa Hill-Aston, former president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, is now running for a seat in the House of Delegates, to represent the 41st District. (Courtesy Photo)

Hill-Aston enters a crowded field of 11 registered candidates for the 41st district delegates’ race, including incumbents Bilal Ali, Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg and Angela Gibson.  Both Ali and Gibson will be running for their first full elected terms after having been selected by the 41st district Democratic Central Committee to fill vacancies in 2017. Ali made news recently when he suggested dismantling the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of the damning Department of Justice report and several police officer convictions for planting evidence and dealing drugs, among other things.

Hill-Aston is concerned that more economic development is not flowing to the neighborhoods surrounding the current ShopRite grocery store in Howard Park. “If there is an anchor store, you also must lift-up the community surrounding that anchor,” Hill-Aston said in response to concerns about the development of commerce near the Howard Park ShopRite that opened in 2014.

She said she is also eager to participate in planning the development of the businesses and neighborhoods surrounding the current Pimlico Race Track. “We not only need Pimlico to be redone, the whole strip needs to be redone,” Hill-Aston said.

The first phase of a study by the Maryland Stadium Authority has determined that more than $300 million needs to be devoted toward renovation of the originally built in 1870.  Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and leaders from the Canadian-based ownership group of Pimlico have called on Gov. Larry Hogan to make a major commitment to track overhaul.  Hogan has not pledged funding for the project. Republican state Del. Pat McDonough has proposed moving the Preakness, which is held every year at Pimlico, to Baltimore County.

Improving prospects for the business community surrounding Pimlico and other areas throughout the 41st district will be a key part of the agenda for the city’s state delegation in the coming election cycle.

Hill-Aston is also concerned with reducing crime in her district and creating opportunities for young adults and women. “We need apprenticeship and mentoring programs. People need good jobs and opportunities to participate in life and support their families,” she said.  She also wants to see health treatment, housing and opportunities for Baltimoreans who have been left behind.

Hill-Aston said she is finally ready for the first time in many years, to advocate on her own behalf.

“For the past 40 years, I have gone door-to-door for state and federal senate and delegate candidates.  I have worked at the polling booth for years,” Hill-Aston said.

“I have done it for other people but, now I’m going to do it for Tessa – I’m doing it for me.”