Md. del­e­gate tries po­lit­i­cal cross­over

Ana Sol Gu­tiér­rez leaves leg­is­la­ture to en­ter race for Mont­gomery coun­cil

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY RACHEL SIEGEL

Fif­teen years af­ter be­ing elected the first Latina to the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly, Del. Ana Sol Gu­tiér­rez (D-Mont­gomery) con­sid­ered her choices: run for re­elec­tion or “see what other op­tions were avail­able.”

Gu­tiér­rez, 75, chose Op­tion B, and she is join­ing the crowded race for the Dis­trict 1 seat on the Mont­gomery County Coun­cil. Frus­trated by the slow pace and con­ser­va­tive na­ture of pol­i­tics in An­napo­lis, Gu­tiér­rez said she wants to fight for im­mi­grant rights and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion in the place she has called home for nearly her en­tire life.

“One out of nine is cer­tainly bet­ter than one out of 141, plus the Se­nate,” Gu­tiér­rez said. “I clearly ex­pect that we will be able to move the nee­dle to im­ple­ment nec­es­sary changes to our county gov­ern­ment in ways that can­not be done at the state level.”

The Dis­trict 1 seat is filled by coun­cil Pres­i­dent Roger Ber­liner (D-Po­tomac-Bethesda), who is term-lim­ited and run­ning for county ex­ec­u­tive. In the Demo­cratic pri­mary — which in heav­ily Demo­cratic Mont­gomery is akin to se­cur­ing the seat al­to­gether — Gu­tiér­rez faces at­tor­ney Reg­gie Ol­dak, so­cial worker Dal­bin Oso­rio, for­mer Kens­ing­ton mayor Pete Fos­sel­man, ac­tivist Bill Cook, for­mer Plan­ning Board mem­ber Mered­ith Welling­ton, and An­drew Fried­son, ad­viser to Mary­land Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot. Rich-

ard Banach is the only Repub­li­can who has filed to run for the seat.

Gu­tiér­rez’s po­lit­i­cal legacy is one of many firsts. When she won a seat on the Mont­gomery County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion in 1990, she be­came the first His­panic elected to a Mary­land school board. She was the first Latina elected to the Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2002. Her 2016 bid for Mary­land’s 8th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict would have made her the first Sal­vado­ran Amer­i­can elected to Congress and the first His­panic mem­ber of Mary­land’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion.

She came to the United States with her diplo­mat par­ents from El Sal­vador at 5 and went on to be­come an en­gi­neer and of­fi­cial at the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ya­heiry Mora, di­rec­tor of the non­profit Casa in Ac­tion, said Gu­tiér­rez’s can­di­dacy of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the county gov­ern­ment in a way that bet­ter re­flects the com­mu­nity.

“There is sym­bol­ism, not only for the Latino com­mu­nity,” Mora said. “It is a shame that in a county where you hear leg­is­la­tors al­ways talk about how di­verse it is, it’s not rep­re­sen­ta­tive in county gov­ern­ment and in the county coun­cil.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), who in 2013 be­came the first Latina to serve as pres­i­dent of the County Coun­cil, spoke along sim­i­lar lines.

“There’s no doubt that Mont­gomery County, given its de­mo­graph­ics, def­i­nitely needs leader- ship that re­flects its com­mu­nity,” she said. “I be­lieve we’ve made some gains, but we’re not there yet. Maybe in 2018.”

Navarro’s dis­trict, which in­cludes Wheaton, has the largest pro­por­tion of His­panic and Latino res­i­dents of any dis­trict in the county. By con­trast, Dis­trict 1 has Mont­gomery’s largest share of white res­i­dents.

Gu­tiér­rez said she is con­fi­dent that her long-stand­ing ties to the com­mu­nity will help garner enough sup­port to win in Dis­trict 1.

“They know me as well as I know them,” she said, adding that she has lived in her Chevy Chase home since 1968.

Im­mi­gra­tion has long been a fo­cus of Gu­tiér­rez’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. But the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump has re­newed her con­cerns about “a long string of of­fenses from racism to xeno­pho­bia to dis­re­spect for women and for Mus­lims.” In the county, soon af­ter Elec­tion Day, churches with large im­mi­grant con­gre­ga­tions, as well as Jewish com­mu­ni­ties, were tar­geted with threats, she said.

“We’ve been so supportive in our lan­guage, but I want it to be ev­i­dent in our ac­tions that we re­ally do pro­vide the pro­tec­tions to these very vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, and I’m not just talk­ing about Lati­nos,” Gu­tiér­rez said.

A ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment from her time in the House of Del­e­gates came in An­napo­lis’s han­dling of the Trust Act, Gu­tiér­rez said, which passed the House but died in the Se­nate. The act would have lim­ited lo­cal po­lice co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion-en­force­ment ef­forts.

Gu­tiér­rez said ed­u­ca­tion has been an­other con­cern since her early days on the school board, and she wants the county to do a bet­ter job clos­ing the achieve­ment gap be­tween poor stu­dents and their more-af­flu­ent peers.

Be­cause she is run­ning for County Coun­cil, Gu­tiér­rez can­not seek re­elec­tion as Dis­trict 18 state del­e­gate. But serv­ing on the coun­cil, as op­posed to in the Gen­eral Assem­bly, comes with its ben­e­fits. Coun­cil mem­bers work full-time, while del­e­gates work part-time and make con­sid­er­ably less money.

The switch has hap­pened be­fore: Coun­cil mem­ber Tom Hucker (D-Eastern County) served two terms as a del­e­gate in Dis­trict 20 be­fore win­ning his seat on the coun­cil in 2014. And Coun­cil mem­ber Craig Rice (D-Up­county) served in the House of Del­e­gates from 2006 to 2010 un­til be­ing elected to his cur­rent role.

Gu­tiér­rez is run­ning un­der the county’s new pub­lic fi­nanc­ing sys­tem, which re­quires can­di­dates to col­lect a cer­tain num­ber of in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions be­tween $5 and $150. Can­di­dates hop­ing to qual­ify for the pro­gram are barred from ac­cept­ing cor­po­rate do­na­tions or con­tri­bu­tions from po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees.

“We’re go­ing to have a brand new set of elected of­fi­cials,” Gu­tiér­rez said. “I think that I bring a level of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge that could be ex­tremely help­ful for Mont­gomery County.”

GU­TIÉR­REZ CAM­PAIGN

Af­ter spend­ing 15 years in the Gen­eral Assem­bly, Mary­land Del. Ana Sol Gu­tiér­rez is hop­ing to win a new job to make a big­ger im­pact.

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