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Largo woman launches write-in campaign against Sen. Currie

Jennifer Lowery-Bell
Jennifer Lowery-Bell

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By Miranda S. Spivack Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2010; 6:35 PM

Jennifer Lowery-Bell stood by as Sen. Ulysses Currie ran unopposed in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for his fifth term in the Maryland Senate.

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Currie's victory came 13 days after he was indicted on charges that he took more than $245,000 in bribes to do favors for a grocery chain. The indictment troubled Lowery-Bell, but she said she was too busy helping other candidates to think about running for office.

But after Currie (D-Prince George's) received more than 10,000 votes, Lowery-Bell, a 63-year-old Largo community activist who is now studying law, decided she had had enough.

Concerned that Currie, 73, had no opponent, the Democrat decided to run as a write-in candidate against Currie in the Nov. 2 election. She filed papers in Annapolis and hopes to represent the 25th District, which includes District Heights, Forestville, Largo, Mitchellville and Suitland.

"Whenever I see wrong, I want to do something about it," Lowery-Bell said in an interview at her home amid family memorabilia and photos of President Obama.

In a brief telephone interview, Currie said he was unaware of Lowery-Bell's plan. "I know nothing about it," said Currie, who declined further comment.

Currie has pleaded innocent to the 18-count indictment that alleges he helped Shoppers Food Warehouse for six years without disclosing his role to state officials or on ethics forms. He has temporarily stepped aside as chairman of the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Prosecutors charge that Currie did not disclose his role in helping the grocery chain sell liquor at one store, save money in the construction of another store and buy county-owned land. Authorities have said Currie received payments that started at $3,000 a month in February 2003 and that by December 2007, his monthly payment was $7,600.

Several of the counts each carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Two former Shoppers officials also were indicted by the federal grand jury, but the company has agreed to pay a $2.5 million penalty and help prosecutors in their case against Currie. The trial is set for June.

Lowery-Bell, a former nurse who is studying law in an online program from Northwestern California University School of Law, has never run for office and knows she faces an uphill fight against a well-entrenched politician. Add to that the mechanics of actually submitting a write-in vote on a voting machine and that she lacks fundraising plans to help pay for campaign literature (she has created fliers herself), and her chances become even slimmer.

She said she decided to run so voters would have a choice, but she acknowledged that she is a long shot. "I have a passion to do what I can do to help out," she said.

A founder of her community's Neighborhood Watch program, which residents began several years ago after a rash of car break-ins, she said she and her husband often go out late at night on foot to help patrol the community.

Lowery-Bell said she is working on her platform but outlined what she believes will be the essence of her campaign.

"I am for safer communities," she said. She also wants to promote job growth, find ways to help seniors afford to stay in their homes and work to reduce foreclosures in Prince George's, which leads the state in such filings.

Currie, in a written response for The Washington Post Voters Guide, said that he, too, is concerned about the foreclosure crisis in Prince George's and that he had worked to protect consumers against abusive lending practices. He also said his record showed deep support for school funding and job creation.

"I know Senator Currie deep in his heart has done a good job, but people are hurt and saddened by what has happened," Lowery-Bell said. "He doesn't just represent himself, he represents thousands of people in the 25th District."

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