This story was updated on Nov. 16.
The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee made Alonzo T. Washington their top choice to fill a vacant District 22 House seat Thursday, rejecting the nominee endorsed by the district’s senator and two remaining delegates.
With 15 votes from the county’s Democratic Central Committee, Washington, 29, of Hyattsville, is now the presumptive replacement for Justin D. Ross (D), who retired earlier this month. Attorney Karren Pope-Onwukwe received four votes.
The committee now plans to look into the background of those two candidates and eventually submit a nominee to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who will then have 15 days to pick Ross’ successor.
Kisha Brown, director of legislation and research for state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, received just two votes, despite having the support of Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D) of University Park and Dels. Tawanna P. Gaines (D) of Berwyn Heights and Anne Healey (D) of Hyattsville, all District 22 representatives.
Ross, however, threw his support behind Washington, who also was supported by numerous community members in attendance, several of whom sported burgundy T-shirts bearing his name.
“I am the most qualified candidate to go to Annapolis to advocate for the county,” Washington told the committee, explaining that he was well acquainted with the county’s needs. “There is no doubt in my mind that I am ready to be this district’s representative.”
Washington currently serves as chief of staff to County Councilman Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville, who was not present at Thursday’s meeting, as well as secretary to the central committee. He said he did not know yet whether he would continue working for Campos if confirmed as delegate.
The additional scrutiny of the two top choices is a break from tradition, said Terry Speigner, chairman of the central committee.
Gregory A. Hall was also tapped earlier this month to replace former Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville, who was automatically removed from office in October after pleading no contest to a charge of misusing campaign funds. Alston was subsequently granted probation before judgment and is trying to get her seat back.
Hall faced two drug possession charges and two handgun possession charges between 1991 and 1995, and told The Gazette he spent 40 days in jail in 1992.
The Washington Post reported late Thursday that Hall also was temporarily charged with murder in 1992 after a gun battle in which a 13-year-old boy was caught in the crossfire, but that charge was withdrawn after tests showed his gun had not fired the fatal bullet.
Hall was backed by Campos, for whom he once worked, as well as Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Dist. 24) of Benson (D-Dist. 24) of Landover, both of whom spoke on his behalf at the committee’s Nov. 2 meeting.
“The committee feels it needs to do a better job of vetting candidates,” Speigner said. “We’re 24 members, and we have to make the decision for 122,000 citizens.”
“The thorough background checks that will be done on Washington and Pope-Onwukwe are “totally different than we’ve ever done before,” Speigner said.
Washington told the committee there was nothing in his background that would keep him from being an effective delegate.