Rep. Donna Edwards (D)
Elected: June 2008, 1st full term.
Born: June 28, 1958, Yanceyville, NC .
Home: Fort Washington.
Education: Wake Forest U., B.A., 1980, Franklin Pierce Law Center, J.D., 1989.
Family: Separated; 1 child.
Professional Career: Lockheed Engineering, 1982-86; Lobbyist, Public Citizen and Congress Watch, 1992-94; Executive director, Center for a New Democracy, 1994-96; Co-founder and executive director, National Network to End Domestic Violence, 1996-99; Executive director, The Arca Foundation, 2000-present.
The new congresswoman from the 4th District is Donna Edwards, who won a special election in June 2008 to succeed Albert Wynn. She is the first black woman to represent Maryland in Congress. Edwards was born in North Carolina, the second of six children. The family moved frequently as a result of her father’s career in the Air Force. Edwards says she learned adaptability from her mother, and, as she told The Washington Post, “There’s not a room I go in where I feel like a stranger.” She was president of her high school class in New Mexico, and returned to her home state for college at Wake Forest University, where she was one of six African-American women in her class. She went to work for Lockheed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and after the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, she decided to attend law school. At Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, she focused on public-interest law. She settled in Fort Washington, Md., and clerked for a District of Columbia Superior Court judge. Later, she co-founded and was the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Edwards earned national recognition for her work on behalf of battered women. She was also executive director of the Center for a New Democracy, where she focused on campaign finance reform. In 2000, she became executive director of The Arca Foundation in Washington, which focuses on social equity and justice. After separating from her husband, she briefly was homeless and then lived with her young son in a room in her mother’s home.
|Donna Edwards (D)||258,704||(86%)||($1,443,942)|
|Peter James (R)||38,739||(13%)||($23,514)|
|Donna Edwards (D)||16,481||(81%)|
|Peter James (R)||3,638||(18%)|
|Donna Edwards (D)||78,008||(59%)|
|Albert Wynn (D)||48,885||(37%)|
In 2006, Edwards challenged seven-term Wynn in the Democratic primary and surprised him with a well-funded and late-blossoming campaign. She ran to his left ideologically, benefited from strong local opposition to the Iraq war, which Wynn backed, and attacked the incumbent’s close ties to business interests. Wynn accused Edwards of distorting his record. The Washington Post endorsed Edwards, writing, “Too often Wynn’s votes have been at odds with good government and the interests of his constituents.” Wynn won, but by a hair, 49.7%-46.4%. Wynn took his home Prince George’s County, 57%-40%. In Montgomery, which cast 32% of the vote, Edwards led 60%-35%. Following that contest, Wynn increased his visibility in the district and co-sponsored a resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney. But Edwards almost immediately began preparing for a rematch in two years.
In 2008, she benefited in the primary from the support of MoveOn.org, the liberal grassroots group, and EMILY’s List, the women’s fundraising powerhouse. She did not take money from political action committees, and she criticized Wynn for his reliance on special-interest funds. Still, she was able to raise and spend $1 million to get her message to voters. The outcome this time was not close. Boosted by heavy turnout from the presidential primary, Edwards won the primary contest with Wynn, 59%-37%. She led 55%-41% in Prince George’s, and 67%-27% in Montgomery County. Six weeks later, but before the general election, Wynn unexpectedly announced he was quitting Congress to join the Washington law firm of Dickstein Shapiro. That decision gave Edwards a chance to take the seat early and so have at least some seniority over other freshmen in the upcoming election. Wynn formally resigned on June 1, 2008. Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley scheduled a special election for June 17; Edwards won 81%-18% over Republican Peter James, a technology developer, in a low-turnout event. She got some attention when she was among the House members who initially voted against the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry but then switched their votes to yes. Edwards said she voted for the revised version of the bill after a phone call from Obama urging her support.