Leaders from Prince George’s Hispanic political and faith communities on Tuesday announced their support for Glenn F. Ivey, the best-funded candidate so far in a crowded Democratic primary field for a open Congressional seat.
Ivey was the first to declare his candidacy to represent the 4th congressional district, but was soon followed by former lieutenant governor Anthony G. Brown and several state and county lawmakers, including Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s).
“We know that Glenn Ivey will do the right thing when the cameras aren’t on him,” said state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), calling the former state’s attorney the “most honest person I’ve ever met.”
Peña-Melnyk, who is Dominican American, has deep and developed relationships within the Latino community and has joined with Ramirez and other legislators in Annapolis to push for immigrant-friendly laws.
Although Ivey has a comfortable $130,000 cash lead over Peña-Melnyk, she could prove to be a formidable rival for him because of the boundaries of the congressional district.
The 4th includes a large swath of southern and central Prince George’s and extends into a sizable portion of Anne Arundel. While most of the candidates emerged from Prince George’s and are working to build name recognition there, Peña-Melnyk already represents a part of Anne Arundel that overlaps with the congressional district.
A few local leaders there have backed her candidacy, including County Councilman Andrew Pruski (D-Gambrills).
Peña-Melnyk has also tapped into national Hispanic political action committees explicitly devoted to helping elect Latinos to federal office. Collectively, these groups made two of the largest second-quarter donations to the delegate’s campaign, according to federal financial reports, totaling $7,000.
Peña-Melnyk has netted endorsements from fellow state legislators both Latino and non-Latino, as well as Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland, an immigrant rights organization.
“I give my body and soul to the entire community,” Peña-Melnyk said. “My record with the Latino community speaks for itself.”
Ivey said the endorsements he received Tuesday represent years of cultivating relationships and working on behalf of Latino communities in Prince George’s as a prosecutor, when he hired the county’s first Hispanic deputy state’s attorney.
As a congressman, Ivey said, he would support legislation that carves out a path to citizenship for the country’s undocumented workers and closes achievement gaps for Hispanic youth.
“When I grew up in North Carolina, I lived there during the Jim Crow era. I knew what it was like to be a second-class citizen,” said Ivey, who is African American. “So when I was elected state’s attorney . . . one of the things I did was make a commitment to make sure that nobody in this community would ever be treated like that.”
State Del. Will Campos (D-Prince George’s) said he worked with Ivey to helped block legislation that would have given local law enforcement authority to act as federal immigration officers: “That is why I am standing here supporting Glenn,” he said.
Prince George’s Council member Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi), who shares a heritage with Peña-Melnyk and considers her a political mentor, said she has known Ivey for more than a decade and felt bound to support him.
“It would be disloyal to turn my back on Ivey,” Taveras said. “It’s about the relationship. This can’t be about ethnic politics; it’s about bringing together a broad coalition.”
The other five candidates in the race — Brown, state Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), former County Council member Ingrid Turner, Warren Christopher and Lisa Ransom — have not announced any endorsements yet, and downplayed the influence such support has on winning votes.