By Josh Kurtz
Emerge Maryland, the group that trains Democratic women to run for political office and has established itself as a major player in state politics, will graduate its fifth class on Saturday – and every single member is planning to run for something in 2017 or 2018.
The graduation ceremony is taking place at the headquarters of the Prince George’s County Education Association in Forestville. The keynote speaker is Capitol Heights Mayor Marnitta King.
The entry of Emerge graduates into the political pipeline comes at an unusual time in Maryland politics. The state currently has an all-male congressional delegation. The eight Democrats talking about running for governor are all men. No women are running for the other statewide offices or for Montgomery County executive.
Already several Emerge alums are serving in office, including state Dels. Angela Angel (D) of Prince George’s County, Brooke Lierman (D) of Baltimore city and Pam Queen (D) of Montgomery County, Baltimore City Councilmember Shannon Sneed (D), and Frederick County Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater (D). And two members of the current graduating class were appointed to legislative seats early this year: Del. Robbyn Lewis (D) of Baltimore city and Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D) of Montgomery County.
In addition, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee includes three Emerge alums: Wendy Cohen of Bethesda of District 16, Natalia Farrar of Rockville of District 17, and Mimi Hassanein of Brinklow of District 14.
Emerge alums seeking offices this cycle include Shaneka Henson, a lawyer who is running for a seat on the Annapolis City Council and Denise Mitchell, who is seeking a return to the College Park City Council after losing a bid for mayor in 2015. She previously spent two terms on the council.
The latest Emerge graduates running for office in 2018, in addition to Wilkins and Lewis, are:
**Lorig Charkoudian, who runs the nonprofit group Community Mediation Maryland in Takoma Park and is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in District 20. Charkoudian sought the appointment that Wilkins got earlier this year, and she has also ran unsuccessfully for the Takoma Park City Council. Two of the District 20 delegates, Wilkins and David Moon (D), are seeking re-election in 2018. The third delegate, Sheila Hixson (D), who has held the seat since 1976, has not said whether she plans to run again. Several other candidates are eyeing the race.
**Lenora Dawson, who has worked for the Baltimore city sheriff’s office for almost a decade, is running to become the city’s clerk of courts. The incumbent, Marilyn Bentley, assumed the job in late 2016, appointed to replace Lavinia Alexander, who died. Alexander only served briefly; she was appointed to the job after the longtime incumbent, Frank Conaway, died in 2015.
**Marisol Johnson, a State Farm insurance agent and vice president of the Baltimore County Board of Education, is seeking the County Council seat now held by Vicki Almond (D) – who is gearing up to run for county executive.
**Deb Jung, an attorney who specializes in nonprofit and employment law who is running for the 4th District seat on the Howard County Council. The incumbent, Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty (D), is termed out.
**Lesley Lopez, the communications director for the U.S.-China Business Council, who is running for a House seat in Montgomery County’s District 39. Lopez has also worked on Capitol Hill and for political organizations. At least one Dist. 39 incumbent, Del. Charlie Barkley (D) is moving on to run for County Council in 2018. Another, Del. Kirill Reznik (D), could run for Congress depending on Democratic Rep. John Delaney’s plans. The District 39 Democratic race will feature several other non-incumbent candidates as well.
**Ellie Mitchell, who runs an educational nonprofit, is seeking a seat on the Baltimore city Democratic Central Committee in District 41.
**Allison Pickard, a member of the Anne Arundel Board of Education, is running for the County Council in District 2. The District 2 incumbent, Councilmember John Grasso (R), is termed out and running for a state Senate seat.
**Christiana Rigby, a community organizer and environmental activist who is seeking a seat on the Howard County Council from District 3. The incumbent, Councilmember Jen Terrasa (D), is termed out.
**Debbie Ritchie, a nurse who serves on the Anne Arundel Board of Education, is seeking the District 3 seat on the County Council. That seat is currently held by Councilman Derek Fink (R), who faces term limits.
**Lisa Rodvien, a teacher in the Anne Arundel County public schools who is running for a County Council seat in District 6. She is seeking to replace Councilmember Chris Trumbauer (D), who is term-limited.
**Stephanie Smith, the chief advocacy officer at the American College Health Association, who is seeking a House seat in Baltimore city’s District 45. The district has three entrenched incumbent delegates: Talmadge Branch, Cheryl Glenn and Cory McCray, all Democrats. But McCray could run for Senate in 2018 – whether or not veteran Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D) retires.
**Dea Thomas, an administrator at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is running for a House seat in Baltimore city’s District 46 – where Lewis, Lierman and Del. Luke Clippinger (D) are the incumbents. Thomas ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat last year.
**Jennifer Wilder, the pastor at Broadview Baptist Church in Sunderland, who plans to challenge Del. Mark Fisher (R) in District 27C.