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Maryland Del. Shawn Tarrant.

Maryland Del. Shawn Tarrant has launched a write-in campaign to retain his 40th District seat in the General Assembly, asking voters to skip the first name on the ballot, Del. Frank Conaway Jr.

The decision, he said, came after residents called expressing concern about Conaway’s alleged “issues,” which were spotlighted by media coverage of more than 50 YouTube videos Conaway posted of himself giving meandering monologues on a variety of eyebrow-raising topics.

The videos, Tarrant said, confirmed what many already knew—that Conaway was not fit to serve.

“I’m just glad that he outed himself,” Tarrant said. “This gentleman doesn’t have a community presence and his behavior is bizarre; people are afraid of him in Annapolis.”

The two-term delegate said during the eight years he and Del. Barbara Robinson have worked with Conaway, representing the 40th, he was unpredictable, wouldn’t show up to meetings, was disruptive during delegation meetings and didn’t contribute to their shared work. Legislatively, he also wasn’t very productive, introducing outlandish bills such as one to create a state walking stick.

“Delegate Robinson and I have protected Conaway for eight years and we just got fed up,” Tarrant said, which is why they didn’t include his name on their ticket during the primaries. “ decided he just wasn’t fit for leadership.”

Tarrant’s campaign has garnered some momentum, even gaining the endorsement of former District 40 candidates, Douglas Barry, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, Quianna Cooke, Rob LaPin and Bill Marker.

“We decided we should really stand up for something we believe in, that is, do something good for our district by shedding light on how ineffective Frank Conaway Jr. has been,” LaPin told the AFRO.

Asked if the anti-Conaway campaign was a bit of “sour grapes” on the part of former rivals, LaPin said, “It is absolutely sour grapes. I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth for the eight years Conaway has been in office, and I’m sure the residents of District 40 feel the same.

“There are a lot of people who feel disenfranchised,” he added.

The Army veteran and former Baltimore school teacher said Conaway gets by on the popularity of his family—both his father and sister hold public offices. But, his performance as a representative of the people is lacking. Not only is Conaway inaccessible, but he is ineffective—passing only two bills during his eight years in the Legislature—and uninvolved in the affairs of his constituency, LaPin said. For example, when he was leading the fight to stop a CSX Transportation facility from being built in the District, LaPin said he reached out to local leaders.

“When I asked lawmakers to help protect the poor and working class residents of this area from being steamrolled by big business everyone responded—everyone but Frank Conaway Jr.,” he said.

Traditionally, the chances of winning as a write-in candidate are statistically limited. However, Tarrant said he feels confident that when his record is compared to Conaway’s, he will prevail.

“My chances are outstanding because people are going to have to decide, for the first time, between Frank Conaway and Shawn Tarrant,” he said.

LaPin added that even though success is far from guaranteed, the battle is worth it, particularly since Baltimore’s declining political heft in Annapolis—the city now has only 16 delegates, less than half of what they once had—requires leaders of political strength and will, who have the respect of their colleagues.

“We don’t fight the fights in life that we can win. We fight the fights that need fighting,” he said. “The people of Baltimore and the people of the 40th District deserve a representative who will fight for them. And Shawn Tarrant has proven he will fight.”

The AFRO reached out to Conaway by phone and e-mail to get his response to Tarrant’s campaign but received no response by press time.

In a letter to the editor, however, Conaway responded to the coverage of his videos—which have since been removed—and his stated viewpoints, particularly, his disbelief in the theory of evolution.

Those views, he wrote, “is of less concern” to voters in the 40th District than his rejection of excessive taxes, his opposition to speed camera tickets and other policies.

“It is my unwavering belief in the effective representation of all the people, regardless of their differing values, beliefs and viewpoints; which has led me to humbly continue in my service in the legislature and has led to my re-election for a third term in Annapolis.”