Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), a senior House member who had been seriously contemplating a run for state Senate this year, said Tuesday that he plans to step away from politics when his term ends in early January.
“It’s been a good run,” Walker told Maryland Matters.
The 50-year-old lawmaker, a former professional football player and TV sports analyst, brought a dash of celebrity to the House when he was elected in 2006. He rose to become vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee under the late Speaker Michael E. Busch (D), but was reassigned to the Economic Matters Committee in 2020 by current Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County).
Walker contemplated running for Senate both in 2018 and again this year, and he would have made a formidable candidate in the District 26 Democratic Senate primary. But Walker said he did not think he could devote the requisite time to legislative duties.
“I’ve got some personal things going, some family things, some business things, and the TV,” he said. “Things that won’t allow me to devote as much time to Annapolis.”
Walker’s decision to retire from politics for now leaves wide-open races for the Senate and House in District 26, which takes in a significant chunk of southern Prince George’s County and includes Fort Washington, Oxon Hill, Camp Springs and Accokeek. Walker’s wife, former Prince George’s County Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker, is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D).
Even with Walker’s announcement Tuesday, there is at least one more big political shoe to drop in the 26th: The district’s state senator, Obie Patterson (D), who has served one term in the Senate but whose political career stretches back to the mid-1990s, has not yet said whether he plans to seek another term.
The filing deadline for candidates was supposed to be Feb. 22, but it was extended a month by the Maryland Court of Appeals, because of lawsuits seeking to overturn the state’s new congressional and legislative district maps. Reminded Tuesday that fate had intervened to provide him with extra time for a decision, Patterson, who turns 84 next week, laughed and said, “Yes, I will decide by that time.”
Three Democrats have already filed to run for the Senate, including C. Anthony Muse (D), who previously held the Senate seat from 2007 to 2019. Muse, who is also a former House member, has twice run unsuccessfully for Prince George’s County executive.
“My passion to serve has never waned,” Muse, the senior pastor of the Ark of Safety Church in Upper Marlboro, says on his campaign website.
Another minister is also seeking the Senate seat: Charles Winston McNeill Jr, senior pastor of the Unity Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“In a variety of roles, I have worked to improve conditions, secure resources, create partnerships and build new opportunities,” McNeill said when he announced his candidacy last month.
Also competing in the Democratic primary is Tamara Davis Brown, who is making her fourth run for public office. She ran unsuccessfully for County Council in 2010, for a House seat in 2014, and again for a Council seat in 2018, when she finished just 55 votes behind now-Councilmember Sydney J. Harrison in the Democratic primary. Davis was contemplating another council run, but uncertainty over the council district boundaries may have persuaded her to run for Senate instead: She filed paperwork to join the race on Tuesday.
A Republican is also seeking the Senate seat: Navy veteran and business consultant Ike Puzon, who took just 7.1% of the vote against Patterson in the 2018 general election. District 26 as currently drawn is a major Democratic stronghold.
Walker’s retirement means the 26th District will send at least one non-incumbent to the House next year. Dels. Veronica Turner (D) and Kris Valderrama (D) are seeking reelection, but four other Democrats are also in the race: Antwan Brown, an Army veteran and member of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee; Angela R. Jones, a staff member for Harrison on the County Council; Andre D. Nottingham, an administrator at the University of Maryland; and Kendal Wade, a community activist and funeral home owner.
Walker held open the possibility of endorsing candidates for House and Senate in the district before the primary, but said it was too early to do so.
“I’m endorsing Monique Anderson-Walker and Peter Franchot for governor — I will say that,” he said.
Bruce DePuyt contributed to this report.