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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Lesley Lopez

Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery County). File photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Eight state legislators are running in congressional primaries in three separate districts this spring. Maryland Matters is checking in with all of them to discuss how they are balancing their legislative work with the imperative to be out on the campaign trail, along with the issues they are emphasizing in the General Assembly and on the campaign trail.

This is the sixth installment of our series. We’ll also have deeper looks into the congressional races and more information on other candidates as we get closer to the May 14 primaries.

When visitors walk inside the Annapolis office of Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery), they will see pictures of her family on a shelf, including a photo of Lopez holding one of her children, standing next to former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Also tucked on the shelf is a small bottle of red Revlon nail polish. The specific color, Cherries in the Snow, was the favorite color of Lopez’s grandmother and is featured on her campaign literature as she seeks the Democratic nomination in the 6th congressional district.

“Those manicures at my grandmother’s kitchen table were so meaningful to me,” Lopez said in a recent interview. “I don’t shy away from coming from a working-class background and that’s what that color represents.”

Lopez, 40, a mother of two children ages 2 and 4 and founder of Monarch Media Strategies, wants to bring that family history to Capitol Hill. She worked between 2010 to 2013 as a spokesperson for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

The delegate, who serves on the House Health and Government Operations Committee, is in her second term representing the 39th legislative district in Montgomery County.

One of the main reasons why she’s running to replace U.S. Rep. David Trone (D), who is running for U.S. Senate, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June 2022 to overturn the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade, taking away abortion as a constitutional right. The decision allowed state legislatures to enact policies to restrict abortion access.

“A sense of bodily autonomy is being destroyed,” said Lopez, who served one year as president of the Women Legislators of Maryland. “I’m aware of the hornet’s nest that Congress is and how historically dysfunctional it is. I know what I’m getting into that I don’t think other people in the field quite do.”

As the last day of the legislative session approaches at midnight Monday, slightly more than 3,400 bills have been reviewed and debated, and many are heading to the desk of Gov. Wes Moore (D), awaiting his signature.

One of the bills Moore will consider is House Bill 76, sponsored by Lopez. The legislation would authorize pharmacists to order and administer influenza and COVID-19 vaccines or those “used in response to a public health emergency” to children as young as 3 years old.

The bill would also require a pharmacist to have completed a practical training program of at least 20 hours approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

A Senate version was sponsored by President Pro Tem Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s).

Lopez said the legislation was “a no-brainer” after the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after she — like so many other parents — struggled to get basic immunizations for her children.

“It really became difficult just to get those basic health care needs met during that time,” she said. “We have a country that puts so many obstacles in front of working families just to make ends meet and to do things the right way. We need a government that shows respect, and dare I say, love for our residents and just being able to understand [the] basic, logistical struggle of being a parent.”

She will face 13 opponents in the May 14 Democratic primary after two dropped out of the race last month — Army veteran Geoffrey Grammer and Joel Rubin, who worked in the U.S. State Department during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

However, Grammer and Rubin endorsed April McClain Delaney, a former U.S. Commerce Department official and the wife of former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D), who represented the district for six years.

Delaney was the first candidate to launch a television ad last month — and recently started airing a second — and had the most money in the race at the end of December, with slightly more than $482,000 in her campaign account. The next round of campaign finance reports, showing fundraising and campaign spending during the first three months of the year, will be out on April 15.

Another opponent, Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery), has garnered several endorsements, including the National Education Association, based on a recommendation from the Maryland State Education Association.

Lopez said the big money and endorsements don’t concern her, especially since she ran in a seven-person primary race in 2018 when she first ran for office.

“I’ve won back-to-back races in my district. I’m the only [candidate in the congressional primary] who’s done that,” she said. “I’m just mentally prepared for this.”

The 6th District includes portions of Montgomery County and then moves into the Western Maryland counties of Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett.

The Democratic winner will face one of seven Republicans vying for the seat. The field includes former Del. Brenda Thiam, former Del. Neil C. Parrott, the two-time GOP nominee against Trone, and former Del. Dan Cox, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2022.

To see the rest of the series so far: Del. Harry Bhandari (D-Baltimore County), Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard), Del. Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel) and Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery).


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Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Lesley Lopez