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Ashanti Martinez
Courtesy of Ashanti Martinez

Ashanti Martinez was sworn in on Feb. 24 as the third delegate for District 22 in the state House of Delegates. He joins delegates Nicole Williams and Anne Healey in representing the district, which includes Hyattsville, Greenbelt, New Carrollton and Riverdale Park.

Martinez, who came in fourth in the 2022 District 22 House of Delegates primary election, was defeated by approximately 800 votes. 

Martinez, who describes himself on Twitter as a son of Prince George’s County, graduated from Parkdale High School in Riverdale Park, in 2014. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in political science and government from Howard University. 

Martinez’s résumé includes two runs for the House of Delegates, an internship in the office of Steny Hoyer, along with work with Joseline Peña-Melynk’s campaign for Congress and with constituent services for county councilmember Thomas Dernoga (District 1). He is the first openly LGBTQ member of the Maryland General Assembly from Prince George’s County and the first Latino member from District 22.

On Feb. 9, Martinez was nominated to fill the house seat previously held by Alonzo Washington. (Washington gave up his seat in the House of Delegates to fill Paul Pinsky’s senate seat after Maryland Gov. Wes Moore picked Pinsky to lead the Maryland Energy Administration.)

In Maryland, vacancies in the state legislature are not filled by special election, as they are in many other states. Instead, when a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a new legislator based on the recommendation from the central committee of the party that previously held the seat.

In recent years, calls to change the process for filling vacancies have been increasing. According to an opinion piece in The Washington Post, over 20% of Maryland legislators were initially appointed rather than elected, although many of them ran (with the advantage of incumbency) and were elected to serve an additional term or terms.

Patrick Paschall, a Hyattsville resident who also ran for the House of Delegates last year, is among those suggesting the process needs to be changed. Paschall criticized the appointment process on his campaign Facebook page. “Do you have any idea who the people are that you voted for for Central committee last July? Well, those people are now picking your next delegate for four years,” he wrote.

Healey, who has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1991, was elected, while Williams, who has been a member since 2019, was appointed.

Since at least 2019, legislative efforts have sought to change the process for filling a vacancy. A house bill, HB417, which is sponsored by 18 delegates, calls for a special election to be held alongside the regular statewide election if a delegate or senator’s seat becomes vacant early enough in the term. This means a new legislator would be elected, rather than appointed, if the vacancy occurs 55 days or more before the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy for the regular statewide election. The special election, like a regular election cycle, would have both primary and general elections.

Correction: The article originally stated that Healey was appointed, rather than elected, to the House of Delegates. Healey was elected to her seat in the House in 1990.