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Montgomery Democrats pick community leader Greg Wims to fill latest vacancy in House of Delegates

W. Gregory Wims was nominated by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee on Tuesday to fill a District 39 vacancy in the House of Delegates. Screenshot.

A longtime Montgomery County business, community and political leader, W. Gregory Wims, was chosen Tuesday night as Montgomery County Democrats’ pick for a District 39 vacancy in the House of Delegates.

Wims was chosen by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee from a field of six candidates to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Del. Kirill Reznik (D), who left the seat he’d held for almost 16 years to become an assistant secretary at the Maryland Department of Human Services.

District 39 takes in Montgomery Village, most of Germantown and parts of unincorporated Gaithersburg.

Wims, a sixth-generation county resident, is the current director of the Upcounty Regional Services Center, a county government office where residents can access services including health and human services agencies, workforce development programs and more.

During Tuesday night’s meeting of the central committee, he held up his grandfather’s union membership card and his mother’s food stamps card.

Without the union, he wouldn’t have been able to complete school or get medical care for blindness in one of his eyes. Without food support, he and his brothers would have gone hungry more often than they did, Wims said. He pledged to help people in need if appointed to the General Assembly.

Wims grew up in Stewarttown, a historically Black community near Montgomery Village, in a home that his ancestors purchased after slavery. It had no electricity or running water, he told central committee members.

“I understand the plight of the hungry. I understand the plight of those in the unions who fight to make sure that they get a fair living,” Wims said during opening remarks at Tuesday’s meeting. “And then when it comes to housing, I’ve done everything I can to work with affordable housing in Montgomery County.”

According to a county biography of Wims, he has logged more than 45,000 hours of community volunteer service and has served on more than 30 commissions and nonprofit boards. He has also served as president of the NAACP’s Maryland chapter.

Wims founded the Victims’ Rights Foundation, which works with law enforcement, local governments and the business community to help victims of violent crimes.

He is also currently listed as vice president of government affairs Bold Concepts, Inc., which provides support services for small businesses seeking government construction contracts. Wims started his own small business in the 1980s after leaving the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he worked in the Minority Small Business Office.

Saman Qadeer Ahmad, chair of the central committee, said a letter of nomination would be sent to Gov. Wes Moore (D) later Tuesday night. The governor has 15 days to make the appointment to the seat.

Wims was one of eight people who initially sought the appointment.

Two candidates, Esam Al-Shareffi and Eric Bernard, withdrew from consideration before Tuesday’s meeting.

The other candidates who appeared during the two-hour meeting were:

  • Bobby Bartlett, a county teacher who ran for the District 39 House seat in 2018 and for a seat on the central committee in 2022;
  • Adam Cunningham, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Nancy King in the 2022 Democratic primary;
  • George Lluberes, a researcher and member of the Montgomery County Police Accountability Board;
  • Marc Anthony Robles, a member of the central committee; and
  • Clint Sobratti, a bus driver and union activist who has twice run for the House seat.

Wims was declared the victor after one round of balloting, during which he garnered support from 17 of 23 central committee members. Anthony had three votes, Lluberes had two, and Sobratti received one.

Sobratti had been part of a slate during the 2022 election with District 39 incumbents Reznik, Sen. Nancy J. King and Del. Lesley Lopez (D). The lawmakers sought to boost Sobratti’s candidacy over Del. Gabriel Acevero (D), who went on to win reelection.

Wims said he could work with each of the incumbent lawmakers already representing the district and described himself as “a person who brings people together.”

King, who attended the meeting, said she has known Wims for decades and looked forward to working with him in Annapolis.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee has voted four times this year to fill vacancies in the General Assembly.

Now-Sen. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery) replaced former Sen. Susan Lee (D), who became secretary of State in the Moore administration. In District 14, Bernice Mireku-North (D) was appointed to the House of Delegates early this year after Moore tapped Eric Luedtke, who had been the House majority leader in Annapolis, to become his chief legislative officer.

Last month, the central committee picked now-Del. Sarah Wolek (D) to replace Kelly in the House chamber.

Additional legislative appointments have been made in neighboring Prince George’s County, where Sen. Alonzo Washington (D) was appointed to replace longtime Prince George’s County state Sen. Paul Pinsky (D) after Pinsky was named director of the Maryland Energy Administration. Ashanti Martinez (D) was then appointed to replace Washington in the House of Delegates.

Now, that Democratic central committee must fill another vacancy, to replace former Del. Darryl Barnes (D), who began his work this week as a partner in the Annapolis firm of Evans & Associates.

The committee is scheduled to hold an online meeting April 25 to pick the new House representative for District 25, which includes parts of District Heights, Largo and Andrews Air Force Base.

A bill that would have required special elections for legislative vacancies in the first two years of the four-year legislative term stalled this year in the House Ways and Means Committee. It was introduced by Del. Linda Foley (D-Montgomery) — a former chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee who was appointed to her seat to a fill a vacancy in late 2021.

Wims said Tuesday that he would support a push for special elections to fill future legislative vacancies.

“I think the people should have the choice of who becomes their delegate or their elected officials. So I’m for special elections.”

Reporter William J. Ford contributed to this article.

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Montgomery Democrats pick community leader Greg Wims to fill latest vacancy in House of Delegates