Capital Gazette Widow, Health Care Advocates, GOP Mayor Among Md. Lawmakers’ SOTU Guests

    President Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday night as an impeachment vote looms in the U.S. Senate later this week. Maryland lawmakers have invited health care advocates, an elected official from across the aisle and a gun safety activist to join them for the address.

    Here’s a quick look at who lawmakers have invited to the U.S. House chamber:

    Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) will bring Andrea Chamblee, a gun reform activist and the widow of John McNamara, who was killed at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis on June 28, 2018, along with colleagues Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

    “Their murders broke the hearts of their friends and loved ones, the Annapolis community, and people across our state. Together, we have worked to honor their memories and do their lives justice,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “But since their murders, the Senate has yet to take meaningful action to address gun violence. From the daily toll of violence in our communities, to the mass shootings we’ve seen across the country, it’s past time to act.”

    Van Hollen has introduced the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, which would incentivize state and local governments to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license in order to purchase a handgun.

    In a statement, Chamblee said she wants the story of Capital Gazette victims and survivors to spark action by federal lawmakers.

    “Every day I grieve for him, and Rebecca, Wendi, Rob and Gerald. I want their story to inspire our legislators to pass the legislation that’s pending and to prevent gun violence now,” she said. “I’m so grateful for Senator Van Hollen’s tireless work to end this nightmare of gun violence. I’m grateful he invited me here to represent Americans like me on this meaningful day.”

    Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) will bring Paul Prager, chairman and CEO of Beowulf Energy, an Easton-based company that has developed a large-scale renewable energy project in Western Maryland. A 1980 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Prager’s Bluepoint Hospitality Group also owns and operates a number of restaurants and businesses in Easton.

    U.S. House Majority leader Steny H. Hoyer (D) will bring two guests, both health care advocates: his constituent Starr Barbour and Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

    Barbour is an advocate working to raise awareness about maternal and mental health disparities among minority communities in Maryland and across the country. She co-created a nationwide HBCU Mental Health College Tour and co-hosts Amerikan Therapy, a podcast focused on mental health and young black Americans.

    “Starr’s passion for helping others is infectious. Her efforts to raise awareness and take action to address maternal and mental health disparities is critically important as House Democrats work to expand access to care for all Americans,” Hoyer said in a statement. “As a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, I applaud the important work Starr is doing to advocate for minority mothers and their children and to help destigmatize mental health issues in communities of color.”

    DeMarco, a prominent lobbying force in Annapolis, leads a coalition of organizations that advocate to expand health care coverage and reduce gun violence.

    “Vinny’s tireless advocacy has ensured that thousands of Maryland families have access to affordable health care,” Hoyer said. “Vinny’s work to enact the all-payer system in Maryland have made our state a model on how states can build on the achievements of the Affordable Care Act and bring cost-effective health care to families around the nation.”

    Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D) will bring Dr. Eberechukwu Onukwugha, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and a member of the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board, a first-in-the-nation effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Maryland residents. “Every single day, she’s on the front lines working to help improve treatment decision making, lower health care costs, reduce prescription drug prices and enhance health outcomes for Americans in every community,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

    Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) reached across the aisle for his guest, inviting Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird. Kinnaird has lived in Frederick County since his family immigrated from Scotland in 1960. He has been the town’s mayor since 2013 and is currently serving his second term.

    “Mayor John Kinnaird is an amazingly effective and heroically devoted hands-on small-town mayor who is available to our shared constituents round-the-clock in Thurmont,” Raskin said. “He uses up-to-date Facebook posts and old-fashioned word-of-mouth to apprise people of school closings, potholes, community picnics, and whatever is on his mind. An immigrant, a storyteller and an outrageously nice guy, he is an American original who exemplifies why local government works so well in Maryland. I am proud to bring him as my guest to the State of the Union.”

    Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R) will bring a pro-Israel activist from Maryland, who was not named by his office.

    Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger III (D) is bringing a staffer as a guest and Rep. David J. Trone (D) is bringing his wife, June.

    Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) was traveling back from the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday and the tight schedule prevented him from hosting a guest, his office said. Brown was stumping for former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg.

    [email protected]

    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.