A Prince George's County civil rights lawyer who heads the county's Human Relations Commission is seeking to become the suburban jurisdiction's top prosecutor in 2018.
D. Michael Lyles, a former Bowie City Council member, will face former state delegate Aisha N. Braveboy and state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez in the Democratic primary race to fill the seat being vacated by State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks (D).
Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans in Prince George's, so the winner of the June 26 primary is almost certain to win the general election in November.
Lyles, 54, of Bowie, said he is campaigning on a message of "compassionate justice" drawn from his years advocating for vulnerable people, including vindicating a man wrongfully convicted of a drug offense and helping to liberate minors from the sex trade.
"I have mostly represented people who needed legal help because they couldn't afford a more expensive lawyer," Lyles said. "I always felt I was helping to vindicate people's rights and ability to get out of a tough situation."
In his work for the county, Lyles investigates and prosecutes discrimination claims and chairs a human- and sex-trafficking task force, where he develops strategies and partnerships to combat a growing county problem.
"Compassionate justice means that we understand that crime will have victims, and victims need to be cared for not just as witnesses or numbers — sometimes they need to be made whole," Lyles said. "It also means we won't have a cookie-cutter approach to prosecuting crime."
He said his drive to defend others comes from his own childhood. He was born to a teenage mother who could not care for him and was raised by his elderly godparents. Growing up, he said, he was picked on. Although he said his godparents "did the best they could do," he battled feelings of abandonment well into adulthood.
"There was always a desire to protect others because for so long I couldn't protect myself," he said.
Lyles received an undergraduate degree from the University of the District of Columbia and a law degree from Catholic University. His first job as a lawyer was with the District's Child and Family Services Agency.
After moving to Prince George's in 1993, he was elected to the council of the county's largest municipality, Bowie, and served two terms. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007.
Lyles is active in civic life in Prince George's and has ties to members of its political elite, including County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who is running for governor of Maryland.
This will be Lyles's first run for countywide office.