Two legends in the Maryland General Assembly will go head-to-head in the state Senate race for District 24. Joanne C. Benson and Nathaniel Exum bring close to 55 years of legislative experience between the two of them. It’s a race that, according to the candidates, matches record vs. progress.

Exum, who is seeking his fourth term as the state senator for District 24, is one of the more respected members in the state Legislature. In addition to his time as senator, he served 24 years as a member of the House of Delegates. He has a long history of accomplishments and he says that’s the proof of his worth.

“I think anyone who runs is qualified, but what can they do?” Exum asked. “I’m not talking about personalities or whether you’re qualified or not. Do you have a record that compares to mine? I could give a record of bills that passed over the years. Can give you such a record? …

“Don’t talk about what you’re going to do. What have you done?”

Benson has been a state delegate since 1991 and has a wealth of experience herself. The cancer survivor says being a legislator is about more than getting bills passed. She says it’s now time for Prince George’s County to fulfill its potential, and doing that requires electing someone concerned with progress.

“The rubber hits the road when you come back to Prince George’s County,” Benson said. “People are not as concerned about the legislation that passes in Annapolis as they are with what is done in the way of helping to create the kind of county that would make us all proud.”

In fact Benson doesn’t cite her legislative record at all. She admits to being involved in getting many bills passed during her tenure in the House, but she says it hasn’t just been up to her.

“I refuse to take credit for bills I have sponsored in Annapolis, because I understand that it is important that we recognize that it doesn’t take one person to pass a bill,” she said. “It takes a lot of people to pass a bill.”

Exum maintains that he’s the right person to continue to represent the constituency of his district. He says even though he’d have 40 years of service if re-elected, there’s nothing he’d rather do. “Serving the people keeps me going,” he said. “I get joy out of serving and helping people. I don’t have to be on stage. I think I deserve the opportunity to go back and continue to serve the people.”

Benson says the “fire in her belly” is driving her to run for this position. She says she loves this county too much to be anything other than a catalyst for change. “I’m just kind of concerned that some of us are sleeping at the wheel,” she said. “We, as African Americans, have to come closer together and be able to communicate. We have to put aside all foolishness and personal differences so that we can move this county forward to where it ought to be.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO