Alonzo Washington appointed to replace Justin Ross as state delegate
BY SUSIE CURRIE — On December 4, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Hyattsville resident Alonzo Washington to the Maryland State Legislature. Washington, chief of staff for County Councilman Will Campos, will be sworn in on December 19 to serve the last two years of former delegate Justin Ross’ (D-22) term.
Washington serves on the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee – the very body responsible for, among other things, filling seats unexpectedly vacated by Democratic officeholders. When a seat becomes empty, as Ross’ did with his November 9 resignation, the committee has 30 days to choose a successor and forward the name to the governor.
“State law is very clear on this matter: We don’t have special elections for [midterm vacancies] in the General Assembly,” said Matt Verghese, a spokesperson for the Maryland Democratic Party.
Instead, the 24-member committee holds a public vote. During a packed hearing at the Hyattsville Municipal Building on November 15, Washington easily beat four other contenders for the seat.
His victory was also a win for Ross, who supported his nomination, and a political blow to the other members of the delegation. Sen. Paul Pinsky and delegates Anne Healey and Tawanna Gaines had all supported Cheverly resident Kisha Brown, director of legislation and research for the Maryland Attorney General’s office.
At 29, Washington is just three years older than Ross was when he was elected 10 years ago. But his path to the marble-halled Maryland State House differs greatly from that of Ross, whom he considers a mentor.
Washington was born in Northeast D.C., the oldest of six children raised by a single mother who moved the growing family to Prince George’s County when he was about 5. With an 8th-grade education, she strung together a series of part-time jobs that often weren’t enough to make ends meet.
“We bounced around a lot,” Washington, 29, said in an interview. “We were always getting evicted.”
He spent most of his elementary-school years in Capitol Heights. But it was while attending Laurel High School that Washington met the first of many mentors: Joseph Fisher, who started the First Generation College Bound program to help low-income students achieve a college degree.
“He went door-to-door in our public-housing project in Laurel,” recalled Washington. After joining the program, he became the first in his family to finish high school. He went on to graduate from the University of Maryland in 2007 with a degree in criminal justice.
A year later, he joined Campos’ staff as community outreach director. He was promoted to chief of staff in 2010, the year he was elected to the PGCDCC. He plans to continue as a member of the committee.
He will leave his day job, though. Asked what he’s proudest of in his time there, he points to helping bring Streetsense, the developer of the Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville, on board for a smaller project in Mount Rainier, and securing funding for a new Hyattsville library and volunteer fire department.
As a state delegate, he says, his top priorities will be bringing FBI offices to Prince George’s County and supporting Metro’s Purple Line project.
“We need to ensure that the Purple Line is well-funded because it’s going to impact our district heavily,” he said.
Delegates, who earn $43,500 a year, meet for 90 days in Annapolis. They act on more than more than 2,300 bills, including the state budget.
The 2013 session begins January 9, and for Washington, that day can’t come soon enough.
“I’m a hard worker,” he said, “and ready to get to work.”