In the second part of her interview with Lisa Snowden-McCray, Jill Carter says that in her run for state Senate, she doesn’t expect votes based on “blind loyalty to the Democratic Party”
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: I’m Lisa Snowden McCray, editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Beat, an independent paper here in Baltimore City. I’m talking to Jill Carter, head of Baltimore City’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage enforcement, and she’s also looking to start a new job. Let’s talk a little bit about that. You just announced your candidacy yesterday.
JILL CARTER: I did, yesterday, so it’s four months of stair master at level 50, I suppose.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: You’re running for state Senate?
JILL CARTER: Yes.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Why?
JILL CARTER: A year ago, I stepped down from the House of Delegates, fully willing to walk away from politics totally. But, after I resigned, the Senator of the 41st District resigned. Her name was Lisa Gladden, and then one of the delegates, Senator [Nathanial] Oaks, was appointed, not elected, to the seat. Most people, many people are aware, so Senator Oaks almost shortly thereafter was indicted and is indicted. He’s facing two different federal trials–criminal trials–for bribery, obstruction of justice, and maybe some other things.
I feel that, that in and of itself, has weakened the representation of the 41st District. It certainly compromised his ability to be able to function, even right now in a legislative session, because they’ve stripped him of his authority. He’s not even able to be on any committees for the remainder of the session, and so that’s not…the optics of that are bad, but also it weakens our power as a people of this district. It’s important to step up and do it. But there’s also some other serious reasons why it’s important.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Sure. I think that somebody else is already running for that position, so why you?
JILL CARTER: Well, frankly, my experience from all those years as a delegate certainly … They say you can’t have testimony if you don’t have a test. I was tested many times, and I survived. I prevailed under a lot of very difficult circumstances many times. But I also was … I would characterize my legacy in the House of Delegates as a leader on criminal justice reform and law enforcement reform, and frankly, a voice for the people that were largely ignored routinely in the legislature.
That’s the same kind of passion and interest, policy interest, I would take to the Senate, but also, we’re missing in the Senate. We don’t have any lawyers from Baltimore on the House Judiciary Committee. I’m still saying house. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has no member from Baltimore City. There are no lawyers in from Baltimore City, in the Senate delegation. I think there may be one, but not a practicing attorney, and so that matters. It matters to understand what the laws are and how the laws work, actually, in people’s lives once we pass them. I think that’s very important.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Please correct me if I’m wrong. I read the Baltimore Sun’s story on you entering the race. It says that if you win this seat, you’re gonna do both jobs?
JILL CARTER: Contrary to most people’s belief, most legislators have a full-time job outside of the legislature. I was one of the few people who was running around practicing law part-time in the interim, and it was a real struggle. Absolutely, I would do both. I’ve already figured out how I can do both.
For the duration of the campaign, I’m gonna still come to work and do my job. I’ll work early in the mornings, late in the evenings, on the weekends, and then once I win, I would just have a reduced schedule during the session when I have to be in Annapolis. But, the key is to put the good people in place in the office to make sure that they can handle things in my absence.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: We just talked a little bit about all the work that’s still to be done, so it just seems like such a critical time. I know that you guys don’t get a lot of funding and resources, so will there be bodies there? If you weren’t there, are there enough people and resources there to do the work?
JILL CARTER: We’re working on it. It’s an uphill battle. When I first took on the office, it was in less than ideal shape, and of course, I didn’t know that coming in. You can’t know things until you’ve done it. But a year in, I realized a lot of the failings and shortcomings of the office, and we’ve been working on fixing those. It’s my hope that by the time I would get to Annapolis, they would be largely cleared up, that staffing shortages and other things.
It was important for me, also, to have top-notch investigators, and so we’re working on hiring new investigators. We’re working on enhancing the training on the investigators, and so I actually do believe. I think it’s gonna work. I think, as director, my role is to really set the vision, the policy and give the direction. It isn’t necessarily a requirement that I’m there every single day, managing every operation, even though that’s what I do now.
If I put the right things in place, I think it’ll work well. Then I also believe the two go hand-in-hand to a certain extent. I think that one can necessarily leverage the other. For example, I don’t think that there’s any reason why there should not be a civil rights agenda in the Senate.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Actually, talking about that, a lot of the things that I’ve read about you, a lot of things when I tell people that I was gonna interview you today … You were doing the work and kind of ringing the alarm in Annapolis about an emphasis on civil rights, and emphasis on kind of like criminal justice reform back in the day, like back before it was kind of an accepted thing now. What do you think about possibly going back and maybe even working with some of those same people that maybe weren’t trying to hear you before?
JILL CARTER: I think there’s a little bit of a change. First of all, there’s a younger core of legislators that have been elected since I was first there. That’s still not enough to really change it, because it’s a leadership driven place. The leadership determines just about everything. Here’s my hope. The Democrats, the Democratic party, because everyone from Baltimore that is elected is a Democrat, they have the power in the House and the Senate. Governor Hogan doesn’t have the power to pass or kill any legislation, or with the numbers of Republicans.
It is my hope that because of what’s happened at the national level, and because the Democrats have lost the governor’s seat, because they have lost so much ground, both locally and nationally, that they’ll be more amenable to a changed way of thinking, that coupled with the newer group of legislators that are coming in. The Democrats cannot afford to continue to lose their base, and they’ve got to step up for the people.
I just went to an event the other night, Black Girls Vote event, and I found it interesting, because this was coming from other people that I don’t normally hear it from. They were saying that we can’t guarantee our vote to any party. They have to carry our agenda. We can no longer have this blind loyalty to the Democratic party. That makes me happy, ’cause let me be clear, I’m a Democrat, and I’m not against Democrats. I just want Democrats to be what they’re supposed to be. I want them to embrace the people that they claim to stand for, and I think that certain things are in place where they might be kind of forced to have that happen.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Final question. The #MeToo movement is happening nationwide. I’ve written personally about, not so much sexual harassment, but other kinds of harassment in Annapolis. The story that I wrote was about a black woman, so I know that whatever is largely kind of seen as a white feminist issue, it hits us worse. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? What’s kind of some of the stuff that you’ve had to face as a black woman in power, trying to get stuff done?
JILL CARTER: Well, it’s interesting because when finally people started talking about Black Lives Matter, I immediately thought what people on the ground don’t realize, and these legislative bodies … When you’re black, or black and female anywhere, you’re experiencing the same kind of dismissiveness, the same kind of marginalization, and so I felt that I had to plead my humanity every single day that I was in the General Assembly.
But, I wasn’t pleading it for myself. I realized I was pleading it for my people, because it wasn’t that I was being dismissed simply because I was a black woman, who was an independent thinking black woman. It was because I was speaking for people that they did not want to acknowledge, like lead-poisoned children, like people that are arrested or have criminal records, just any group of people that they don’t see as a major power base.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: That’s interesting. All right, well thank you so much for talking to me today. I really appreciate it.
JILL CARTER: Thank you and thank you for the work you do.
L. SNOWDEN MCCRAY: Thanks. I’m Lisa Snowden McCray. You’ve been watching The Real News Network. Thanks.