By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd has never shied away from shaking up the establishment and hopes to do it once again. Byrd, 28, who helped lead to the name change of the University of Maryland’s football stadium while a student at College Park, is preparing to run for the congressional seat that has been occupied by the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District since 1981 by incumbent Steny Hoyer.
In an exclusive interview with the AFRO Byrd announced that he will run for the seat that has been held by Congressman Hoyer for 39 years, who is currently serving in his 20th term. If elected, Byrd would be the first Black to represent a district whose city was one of three established during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“As the youngest Black mayor in the United States I’m uniquely qualified to represent the small towns of this nation,” Byrd said. “There are a multitude of issues facing the nation right now. Between the absence of leadership, the global pandemic, and the largest [civil rights] movement in U.S. history, the time is now.”
Byrd faces the challenge of trying to defeat an incumbent who has been a part of the Congressional establishment longer than Byrd has been alive. Hoyer has been a political mainstay in Maryland and one of the most well connected representatives on Capitol Hill. However, Byrd thinks that the time is now for change in the Fifth District and feels that Hoyer is out of touch with the social evolution that has changed the demographics of Charles and Prince George’s Counties.
“District 5 has changed dramatically since he first took office and he doesn’t reflect what’s in the best interests of these communities any longer,” Byrd said. “He’s not a champion for the new Charles and Prince George’s County. He stands for good old boy politics and I represent good trouble.”
The Greenbelt Mayor alleges that Hoyer has aligned himself with conservatives on the Hill, whose policies align themselves with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s agenda. Byrd accuses Hoyer of “caving” to a conservative platform that includes – most recently – not voting in favor of the stimulus package that would have extended unemployment benefits beyond Dec. 26 to many who could be facing eviction of foreclosures by the start of 2021. It was a package that was endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Byrd figures he can carve into the Hoyer machine by campaigning on an agenda where he can cite how the incumbent’s track record includes anti-progressive leadership that doesn’t represent what’s in the best interest of smaller municipalities and people of color. He challenges Hoyer’s decision to vote with Republican leadership on DACA and to raise the pay for members of Congress, while their staff salaries remain stagnant.
“Whatever he’s feeding, isn’t healthy for us,” Byrd said.
Hoyer will also be forced to sway a younger and politically maturing electorate in District 5 that feels he represents the old Democratic guard that takes their vote for granted. Byrd is ready to attack Hoyer for not backing Rep. Sheila Jackson’s (D-TX) reparations bill that garnered support from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and how the veteran Maryland Representative was reluctant to support reforms in college athletics that would allow for student-athletes to receive compensation.
“I support these issues because I believe in them,” Byrd said. “We must have the voice to raise these concerns.”