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Former Maryland Democrat Delegate Tawanna Gaines Dies At 70

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Longtime Maryland Democrat state Rep. Tawanna Gaines has died of bladder cancer at 70 years old.

Gaines was diagnosed in early October after experiencing abdominal pains doctors had initially told her were caused by fibroid tumors, the Washington Post reported. Her condition worsened and she passed away at Doctors Community Medical Center.

“Gaines got her start as a Berwyn Heights Town Council member in 1998 and was mayor of Berwyn Heights from 2000 to 2001. As a delegate, she was deputy majority whip from 2003 to 2007, vice chair of the Prince George’s House delegation from 2007 to 2008, and assistant majority leader in 2015. She represented District 22, which covered parts of Prince George’s County, from Dec. 21, 2001, to Oct. 4, 2019. She hastily resigned from office two weeks before she was charged with federal wire fraud for using campaign funds for personal use. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January 2020,” the WaPo report stated.

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Gaines spent years working in politics before she was hit with a federal wire fraud conviction that resulted in a six-month prison sentence.

After she pleaded guilty, Gaines told reporters that she took “full responsibility” for her actions and encouraged the public not to judge other lawmakers because of her choices.

Anitra Edmond, her daughter, was the treasurer for the “Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines” campaign and also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

“Before Gaines faced a federal court, she had faced state investigators for flouting campaign finance rules, resulting in fines and a 2016 referral to the Office of the State Prosecutor, the state agency that oversees corruption. Gaines’s fall from political grace was devastating to people of color and women for whom Gaines was a role model and advocate. She maintained close connections to municipal leaders after ascending to Annapolis and had ready ears to hear their concerns, Miles said,” the Post reported.

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Last week, former Maryland Democrat State Delegate Sheila Hixson passed away.

The prominent Democrat, who served as the Maryland Ways and Means chairwoman, died at the age of 89 on Sunday, just days before the crucial midterm elections.

“Her death was announced Monday by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) and the four state lawmakers in Montgomery County’s District 20, which Hixson represented for 43 years. No cause of death was given, though the ex-lawmaker was in declining health in recent years. She died in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where she lived with one of her daughters,” local news outlet WTOP reported.

“Hixson was the longest-serving woman in the history of the General Assembly and was chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee from 1993 to 2017. She was one of the most progressive members of the General Assembly when Democratic moderates were dominant, but she was also a political pragmatist, who began waging uphill policy fights only when she knew she had a chance of winning,” the outlet noted.

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“All of the progressive issues in the state of Maryland, all started with Sheila Hixson,” the late Democrat House Speaker Mike Busch said during a tribute to Hixson in 2017 when she announced she would not seek another term.

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“We are grateful for her impassioned life of service and her enduring contributions to the dynamic political culture of District 20, where her Breakfast Club was always the center of the action, the good-government politics of Montgomery County, and progressive legislative change in the state of Maryland. Sheila believed in the power of government to be an instrument of common prosperity and the agent of excellent constituent service. She listened to and valued the voice of the people,” Raskin, state Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery) and Dels. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery), David Moon (D-Montgomery), and Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) said in their statement announcing Hixson’s death.

“Hixson was a lifelong Democratic activist who moved to the Washington, D.C., area from Michigan with her family in the 1960s. She quickly became involved with national and local Democratic politics, and when a vacancy opened in the House of Delegates in early 1976, she was appointed to the position. She was subsequently reelected nine times,” WTOP reported.

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