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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Doing the day job at MACo and looking ahead to an uphill campaign for Congress

Andrea L. Crooms, Prince George’s County’s environment director and a candidate for Congress, with Chaz Miller, a recycling entrepreneur, before a panel discussion Thursday at the Maryland Association of Counties conference. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

In their role as director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Andrea L. Crooms is making the scene at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City this week, attending a meeting of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, speaking on two panels about recycling, and meeting with counterparts from across the state.

In their spare time, when they aren’t restoring a historic farmhouse in Upper Marlboro with their husband and looking forward to adopting a baby in November, Crooms is preparing to run for the U.S. House of Representatives against one of the most venerated members of Congress in Maryland history, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th).

Crooms surprised many colleagues and political professionals when they filed papers to challenge Hoyer in the May 14, 2024 Democratic primary a few months ago. They haven’t said much about it since, but that’s about to change: Crooms has just filmed a campaign commercial and hired a campaign manager and plans to formally announce their bid in early September.

In an interview Thursday, Crooms, 43, said they greatly respect Hoyer, who entered Congress in 1981 and whose political career dates back to the 1960’s, but said it’s time for a change.

“Steny Hoyer has been my representative since I was 2 years old,” they said. “I can respect the heck out of them and still run against them.”

Crooms twice supported McKayla Wilkes, the progressive activist who challenged Hoyer in the 2020 and 2022 Democratic primaries and is trying again this election cycle, but said it’s time for someone else to try to oust the veteran lawmaker.

Croom noted that the average American voter is 38 years old.

“We need the generation of average voters to serve in Congress,” they said. “We need working class people. We need women and we need scientists. And I check all those boxes.”

Crooms is a lifelong resident of the Mid-Atlantic who has spent several years in Maryland. Their father worked at a Sears department store yet was able to afford to send them to college on that salary. That kind of middle class mobility doesn’t exist anymore, Crooms lamented, calling for massive government investments in education, child care, health care, infrastructure and the environment to build a more sustainable middle class.

Crooms also suggested that major government investments in improving residents’ lives will help combat crime. They also want to see the nation’s 9-1-1 systems reformed, so that first responders to certain emergencies aren’t necessarily armed law enforcement officers.

“I’m not talking about defund the police,” said Crooms, who is a former public defender. “I’m talking about invest in the community. These are the types of investments our Southern Maryland communities want.”

Mostly, Crooms is building their campaign around their lifelong environmental advocacy and expertise. Before joining the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Crooms worked at the U.S. Department of Energy for 11 years, serving in multiple roles at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, where they planned, developed and implemented programs in renewable power, water and wastewater, procurement, sustainable transportation, weatherization, waste and recycling, landfill waste to energy, and building energy efficiency.

“That’s really the core of who I am and what I can bring in a very meaningful way,” they said.

It’s shaping up to be a very busy fall for Crooms. They said they hope to raise $250,000 by Oct. 1 (fundraising, they said, “is the worst thing on Earth”), a downpayment on the $500,000 to $1 million they figure they’ll need to fund the primary campaign. Crooms said they won’t accept any campaign contributions from utilities or fossil fuel interests.

This is their first full-blown political campaign, other than running to be a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Crooms said they won’t campaign any differently if Hoyer chooses to retire, which would pave the way for what is almost certain to be a multi-candidate open seat Democratic race.

In early November, Crooms and their husband will travel to Ukraine, where a surrogate mother is set to deliver their first child, a girl. Crooms is of Eastern European descent, and expressed confidence that Kiev is safe enough to bond with their daughter for a couple of weeks before bringing her home.

Crooms said they alerted County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) to their plans — Hoyer was an early and important endorser of Alsobrooks’ 2024 U.S. Senate bid — and has received permission to remain environmental director in Prince George’s County.

“As long as I’m doing my job and taking care of her constituents and doing this on my own time, I’m doing this on my own time,” they said. “It’s no different than if I had some kind of hobby on my own time.”


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Doing the day job at MACo and looking ahead to an uphill campaign for Congress