Alonzo Washington, a staff member on the Prince George’s County Council, was tapped Thursday night to replace Del. Justin Ross (D) who recently resigned his seat in the Maryland General Assembly.
But county Democrats, stung by reports about another recent selection for a vacancy, plan to do more research into Washington’s resume before sending his nomination to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) who has the final say.
Washington, 29, is the chief of staff to County Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville) and is the second Campos aide in recent weeks to be selected by the county’s Democratic Central Committee to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates.
He defeated four other candidates, including long-time Democratic activist and attorney Karren Pope-Onwukwe, and Kisha Brown, an attorney who was the choice of the State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and the two delegates from District 22. The district includes Hyattsville and several surrounding communities in northern Prince George’s.
Washington was praised by several speakers at Thursday’s meeting at Hyattsville city hall, with several citing his attentiveness to constituent service while working for Campos.
A University of Maryland graduate who was the first in his family to graduate from college, Washington’s personal story of coming from poverty and at times living in homeless shelters as a child seemed to resonate with committee members. Ross, who backed Washington, said he thought the nomination ultimately would be approved. Delegates are paid $43,500 for the part-time job.
The terms of Alston and Ross end in January 2015.
The decision to take a closer look at Washington comes as the 24-member committee has been circulating reports that Greg Hall, 42, selected two weeks ago to replace Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s), had a criminal history. The committee plans to do more research on its selections before sending them to the governor, beginning with Washington, said Terry Speigner, the committee chairman who had sought Alston’s seat and lost to Hall.
After Washington’s selection, committee members huddled in private to discuss Hall. Hall said he has not hidden his history and discussed some of the details as he pressed his candidacy two weeks ago during the selection meeting. Campos told The Washington Post, “It’s never been a secret. He talks about it.”
But Speigner said Thursday night that committee members were worried.
“There is concern about how the committee is going to look and how the county is going to look,” Speigner said.
The committee came to no consensus about Hall’s nomination, and Speigner said it will now be up to O’Malley. Hall defeated Speigner in a 12-10 vote on Nov. 2.
Meanwhile, Alston attended Thursday night’s committee meeting, handing out a sealed letter to panel members. She said she was updating them “on where things are for me.”
She said she planned to hold on to her seat. “I am at work even if I don’t have an office,” she said. She and her attorneys have said they are preparing a lawsuit to try to reinstate her in office.
The first-term legislator, was removed from office in October after she was sentenced on a misconduct charge for stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her law firm. An Anne Arundel County judge on Tuesday struck Alston’s conviction.