There will be competition for a House of Delegates seat to represent part of northern Prince George’s County.
Rush Baker, son of former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said Thursday he plans to seek the appointment to represent District 22.
“Based on my history, the amount of work that I’ve done and the amount of relationships I’ve built, why not me?” Baker, 35, said in his office at Baker Strategy Group, a consulting firm in College Park. “I think now is the time.”
Ashanti Martinez, who is chief of staff for newly elected County Councilmember Krystal Oriadha (D), confirmed Thursday he’s “100% in.”
“I’ve done protests in the county. I’ve done protests on Capitol Hill where I’ve been arrested for protesting our immigration policies here in this country,” Martinez, 26, said. “I’m willing to put myself on the line because our communities are worth it.”
Both candidates said they will wait to make formal announcements until after Gov. Wes Moore (D) confirms the appointment of Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s), who has been nominated to fill the District 22 Senate seat.
The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee unanimously approved Washington Saturday to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Paul Pinsky (D), whom Moore has picked to lead the Maryland Energy Administration.
Baker and Martinez are both Prince George’s natives who have run unsuccessfully for the House seat.
Baker sought the seat in 2014 and came in fourth place in the Democratic primary behind the top three vote-getters.
Martinez ran in 2018 and came in fifth in the Democratic primary. He sought the seat again in July and came in fourth place, nearly 800 votes behind Del. Anne Healey.
Whoever is appointed to the House seat would work alongside Healey and Del. Nicole Williams.
District 22 includes Hyattsville, New Carrollton, Riverdale Park and Greenbelt, which has been pitched as a possible location for a new FBI headquarters.
Baker and Martinez support the FBI headquarters relocating to Prince George’s, especially in Greenbelt, where it could support thousands of jobs and nearby businesses.
Both men call themselves progressive Democrats and support unions, universal health care and economic and social justice.
However, Baker admits their “tactics” in conveying the messages are different.
Behind the scenes
Besides using a slightly different first name, Baker also chose a different collegiate path than his parents, who graduated from Howard University in neighboring Washington, D.C., one of the biggest historically Black colleges and universities in the nation.
Baker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2009 from The Cooper Union, a small private college in New York City. He obtained a master’s degree in painting and printmaking in 2012 from Yale University.
Baker said he’s worked quietly behind the scenes, co-managing both of his father’s gubernatorial campaigns, serving on the county’s central committee for four years and volunteering at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville.
Besides working two days a week as a lecturer at American University in Washington, D.C., he’s part of a task force in Riverdale Park to redo the town seal that features the Riversdale Manor, situated on a former plantation that housed African slaves but is now used for weddings, fundraisers and other events.
Baker, a professional artist with work showcased throughout the D.C. area and around the country, has displayed some of his art at Riversdale Manor.
As for redesigning the town seal, Baker said, “It’s not about an erasure, but more about recontextualization. That’s something that’s more nuanced than just saying, ‘Let’s burn this down. Let’s take the seal down.’ What we’re going to do, based on community involvement and feedback, [is] to change the design of the seal and make it a more reflective seal for our community for the next 100 years.”
Martinez’s activism began when he was a teenage member of the county’s Young Democrats and was working on a campaign with Del. Joseline Peña-Melynk (D-Prince George’s). They are both Afro-Latino.
He increased his activism at Howard University where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2018. His mother is a Howard alumna and his younger brother is a junior there.
After graduating from Howard, Martinez worked as director of constituent services for current Prince George’s County Council chair Tom Dernoga (D).
He then worked as a research and policy analyst for CASA, advocating for Latino and immigrant communities mainly in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
He’s known throughout Prince George’s as a community activist who has participated in peaceful protests against police brutality, against school resource officers in public schools and in support of LGBTQ rights in schools and workplaces.
Martinez also marched alongside PG Changemakers, a group of civic leaders and residents that created online forums on voting, combating racism, handing out information on the census and distributing meals to underserved families.
The group even held events to write social justice demands, in chalk, on sidewalks and parking lots in front of several county buildings.
“I’m a homegrown Prince Georgian who believes in champion fights for working people,” Martinez said. “I think you can tell from my resume what I’ve accomplished in the last few years…to help ensure that our communities are made whole and protected.”