By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 20, 2008
Democrat Donna F. Edwards was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives yesterday, becoming the first black woman from the state of Maryland to serve in Congress.
Surrounded by the state's congressional delegation and introduced by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Edwards took the oath on the House floor as family and supporters in a packed visitor gallery gave out a cheer.
Edwards noted that she was sworn in on Juneteeth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, and recalled the oath sworn by her father and brother when they entered the Air Force.
She said voters in the district, which includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, "sent a strong message of change" with her election.
"I am here with my sleeves rolled up, ready to work, ready to help put Washington back on the side of everyday hardworking people," she said in her speech after being sworn in.
Hoyer noted that when he was elected to Congress in 1981, half of Maryland's delegation in the House was female but that in recent years it had become all male.
"We are extraordinarily proud you have joined us, and our delegation will be stronger, better and more representative for that," he said.
Edwards captured more than 80 percent of the vote in a special election Tuesday, defeating Republican Peter James and Libertarian Thibeaux Lincecum. Edwards unseated incumbent Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) in a February primary, overwhelming the eight-term congressman by arguing that he had become beholden to corporate interests and noting his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
Wynn resigned from Congress on May 31 to join the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro LLP. Edwards's February primary win earned her a spot on the November ballot to determine congressional representation starting in January. She got a jump-start on her service after Wynn resigned early, prompting the special election. She will face James again in the November general election.
Edwards, 49, lives in Fort Washington. Until recently, she served as executive director of the Arca Foundation, a grant-making charitable group. A longtime community activist, she had never run for elected office before challenging Wynn in 2006, stunning many at the time by coming within 3 percentage points of ousting the longtime representative.