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Gay Afro-Latino man running for Md. House of Delegates

Ashanti Martinez hopes to represent District 22 in Annapolis

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Ashanti Martinez (Photo courtesy of Ashanti Martinez)

A Maryland House of Delegates candidate who hopes to become the first openly gay Afro-Latino man to represent Prince George’s County in the chamber says his priority is working families.

“I’m in this race because I believe that we deserve a working class champion for working class families in Annapolis,” says Ashanti Martinez. “Industry has their people, big businesses have their people, but working families haven’t had someone in their corner in Annapolis in a very intentional way.” 

Martinez is running to represent District 22 in Annapolis.

State Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) in 2018 became the first openly gay Afro-Latino man elected to the Maryland General Assembly.

“I think [during the] pandemic we’ve really seen the need for a responsive government that [will] build out a safety net, hold all of us together, and [be] something that we don’t currently have for workers here in Maryland,” says Martinez.

He wants to “be in the ring for round two of COVID-19” fight for individuals in the working class and families of which he’s a part, and most importantly, fight for himself. 

Education, criminal justice reform among Martinez’s priorities

Martinez’s campaign hinges on six main issues: Education, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, criminal justice reform and the environment. 

He plans to expand the school meals program in Prince George’s County Public Schools; create green transport initiatives that make transportation easily accessible and affordable; and craft a senior-friendly healthcare system that reduces the cost of prescription drugs, hearing aids and dental services, among myriad other initiatives, if elected. 

His strategy is to connect with the seven different municipalities in District 22 and communicate with mayors, council members and other various stakeholders to better understand the shortcomings in their jurisdictions and devise solutions that will funnel resources into the district. 

“One of the biggest jobs a state delegate has is [to] make sure that local governments, whether county or municipal level, have the resources necessary to deliver services to [their] residents. So I know I’ll be able to do that going to Annapolis because I already understand the terrain a little bit better than most,” says Martinez.

While it’s premature now to forecast the course of legislation after his possible election, Martinez is certain that his paramount duty will undoubtedly be to “bring back the bacon” through the yearly budget process.

Martinez won’t ‘make drama out of my drama’

As someone who is entering an overly polarized American political landscape, Martinez is aware that he may have to battle the ever-present ruckus that persists in politics. He is, however, also steadfast at ensuring that this doesn’t cloud his responsibility to his constituency.  

“I actively have to remind myself not to make drama out of my drama,” says Martinez. “I think you get so much more done when you take yourself out of a situation, analyze it from that 30,000 feet conversation [standpoint], criticize yourself and realize that intent and impact are two separate things.”

Martinez further emphasized that he strives to lead by example and understands that although he may not be the best, he can always improve on his faults. Additionally, he recognizes that it is impossible to dictate people’s reactions, and this has given him the clarity that he can’t “make mountains out of molehills.”

“I really try to power through things and understand the root causes of issues so that we can communicate through it because a lot of times things are just communication breakdowns, or just miscommunications on a large scale,” says Martinez.

Howard University alum hopes to tap into HBCUs legacy

Martinez this year will be the first LGBTQ candidate to run to represent Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates.

He is certain that while he is a “first,” he does not want to be the last. As an alum of Howard University, one of the nation’s leading historically Black colleges and universities, his modus operandi will include tapping into the legacy of HBCUs: Creating spaces and opportunities for Black people in all American institutions. 

“Once I’m in and [help] get other people in, I think [we’ll be able to] help break down some of the hurdles [associated] with the navigating government,” says Martinez. “I think because I’ve been doing this for such a long time, a lot of the players already have a relationship with me and they know my style. I’m not big on tribalism; I’m really about service and people, and getting results.”

Martinez is also attune to the reality that being a first also comes with the pressure of high expectations. 

Given the backdrop of the pandemic and the country’s sudden racial awakening, his work will be even more crucial to his community during a time where immediate change is non-negotiable. 

“I have high expectations for myself [and] understand the realities of the world. I chose to be in politics, and that means I chose to be a leader in this space,” says Martinez. “There are certain responsibilities that come with the territory, and so from an early age I [knew] that if I wanted to be in this space … I had to seek understanding and clearance on issues instead of just trying to regurgitate my feelings.”

Martinez adds it’s about having the maturity to understand that leadership isn’t selfish and that there are much grander issues than why people react or respond a certain way. He says having a firm support system to help navigate and build upon that maturity is important.

Martinez is ultimately confident that he will be a success because of his vertebrae of family and friends, who he intentionally pencils onto his calendar for dinner in efforts to ensure that his demanding work life does not ravage his personal life.

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District of Columbia

Bowser’s highest-level adviser resigns after sexual harassment allegation

Female staffer accuses John Falcicchio of longstanding abuse

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John Falcicchio (Screen capture via WUSA9)

Lawyers representing a D.C. government employee shook up the city’s political establishment on Monday when they announced that the employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against John Falcicchio, the now former D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s longtime chief of staff.

The attorneys, Debra Katz and Kayla Morin, did not identify the city employee. 

The announcement by Katz and Morin in a press release came shortly after Mayor Bowser issued her own announcement at a news conference on the same day. The mayor confirmed that Falcicchio’s sudden resignation last Friday, March 17, followed her decision to launch an investigation into allegations against Falcicchio.    

But Bowser said issues surrounding her longtime adviser’s departure amounted to “a sensitive matter that includes privacy concerns” that prevented her from disclosing why she initiated the investigation and why Falcicchio abruptly resigned. 

She said the investigation was being conducted by the city’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is “following established policies and procedures” and that all relevant D.C. government staff members were fully cooperating with the investigation.

“I can also tell you that this investigation does not involve any allegations of improprieties related to business transactions,” Bowser told reporters attending the news conference, which was initially called to celebrate the completion of the city’s 9th Street, N.W. protected bike lane project and to discuss updates on the Capital Bikeshare program.

“I have every confidence in my new chief of staff, Lindsey Parker, and in our new Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Keith Anderson,” Bowser said at the news conference. “And I have immense confidence in the 37,000 employees of the D.C. government who will keep us moving forward,” she said.

Parker has served as the city’s chief technology officer since 2019 and as assistant city administrator since 2022. Anderson has served as director of the D.C. Department of General Services, which oversees the city’s buildings and properties.  

“We represent an employee of the District of Columbia who came forward to report serious allegations of sexual harassment by former Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio,” the statement released by attorneys Katz and Morin says.

“It is our understanding that this behavior is longstanding, and our client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which Mayor Bowser initiated immediately,” the statement continues. “Our client is courageous. She came forward to ensure accountability and protect other women,” it says. “Given the gravity of our client’s allegations – which involve unwelcome advances and sexual contact – we ask the media to respect her privacy,” the statement says.

It concludes by encouraging “everyone affected” to contact Maia Ellis, the Associate Director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel, who’s leading the investigation, at [email protected].

Katz is a founding partner and Morin is an associate of the D.C. law firm Katz Banks Kumin, which specializes in sexual harassment law, whistleblower law, and employment law, according to a write-up on its website.

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Maryland

Md. Senate approves transgender rights bill

Maryland House of Delegates passed similar measure on Saturday

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland Senate on Monday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

Senate Bill 460 or the Trans Health Equity Act passed by a 31-15 vote margin. 

“Requiring, beginning on Jan. 1, 2023, the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide gender-affirming treatment in a nondiscriminatory manner; requiring that the gender-affirming treatment be assessed according to nondiscriminatory criteria that are consistent with current clinical standards; prohibiting the issuance of an adverse benefit determination related to gender-affirming treatment unless a certain experienced health care provider has reviewed and confirmed the appropriateness of the determination; etc,” reads a summary of the bill.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday passed a similar measure.

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Maryland

Md. House of Delegates approves transgender rights bill

State Medicaid program would be required to cover gender-affirming treatment

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 93-37 vote margin. The measure now goes before the Maryland Senate.

“Proud that the MD House of Delegates passed the Trans Health Equity Act with such a strong majority,” tweeted state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), who introduced HB 283.

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