Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is one of several candidates running for Donna Edwards’ former seat in Congress. (Courtesy Photo)

On March 30, candidates for Maryland’s Fourth Congressional District seat presented their case for why they should replace Donna Edwards in the House of Representatives at Prince George’s County Community College.

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, Maryland Del. Josaline Pena-Melnyk (D-District 21), businessman Warren Christopher, and political activist Terrence Strait are competing on April 26 for the Democratic Party primary nomination, while Green Party candidate Kamesha Clark, and Republican David Therrien are seeking nomination by their parties. The winners will compete for the seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

Seventy-five people attended the forum,  sponsored by a coalition of women’s groups including the county’s chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Women in the NAACP. The moderator was June White Dillard, a former president of the Prince George’s County NAACP.

Current Fourth District representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is running for the U.S. Senate seat to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). The Fourth Congressional District covers much of Prince George’s County and a small portion of Anne Arundel County, and is majority Black.

The Democratic candidates largely agree on social issues. However, the biggest difference is in style and emphasis on what they will do in the House. “I will work to stop the Republicans when they seek to privatize Social Security,” Brown said. “I will work to ensure economic security and jobs for the residents of the Fourth Congressional District and I will bring federal contracts to the district. This district doesn’t get enough federal contracts and I will work to get money to expand early childhood education.”

Pena-Melnyk said part of her main focus will be on education. “Education is important and I am a testament to that importance,” she said. Pena-Melnyk talked about her Dominican Republic roots and how her mother, though possessing only a third-grade education, stressed going to school and bettering oneself during life.

Pena-Melnyk said while in the House, she will continue to push the progressive agenda that she is working on in Annapolis. “For the last nine years, I have worked for gun control and a raise in the minimum wage,” she said. “I have stood up to the powers that be in Annapolis on those issues and I will do that in Congress.”

Christopher said that he will focus on finding homeless veterans housing, federal senior citizens services, and minority businesses opportunities for government contracts.

Strait said he won’t be a traditional “go-along, get along” House lawmaker. “We have a government that fails to plan for the future and a Congress that tends to act in election cycles and that is not good for democracy,” he said. “As a member of the House, I will focus on a viable renewable energy policy and a responsible foreign policy.”

On Capitol Hill, freshman lawmakers have little clout when it comes to moving legislation or landing choice committee assignments. Freshman representatives, as a result, tend to focus on constituent services and the candidates made it clear those services will be a priority.

“Washington is dysfunctional and I will try to make government more efficient for our residents,” Brown said. Pena-Melnyk said she helps her constituents when there is a problem with the Maryland government and will do the same in Washington.

Ivey touted his experience as an aide to U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and former Sen. Tom Daschle (D), saying he understands how to get services for constituents. Christopher said he will use his executive experience to aid residents.

Carlton Carter, candidate for the eighth district of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, also attended the forum. “I came to hear what the candidates speak on how they feel about education,” Carter said. “Based on what I am hearing, I am looking at Christopher and Pena-Melnyk.”