ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Last week, Rachel Jones[D] was sworn into the Maryland House of Delegates to represent District 27B. Delegate Jones came into office following the resignation and subsequent passing of Senate President Emeritus Mike Miller, who was succeeded by District 27B’s former delegate, Michael Jackson[D].

Jones applied for the vacant position, was nominated by the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee, and was finally was selected by Governor Larry Hogan[R]. Jones was selected over the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee’s nomination, Jacqueline Steele McCall.

This was a historic first for Calvert, with Jones being the first black woman to represent the county in the House of Delegates. recently sat down with Delegate Jones to discuss her background, policy goals, and legislative approach to representing her unique district which spans across multiple counties.

While this is her first time holding political office, she is no stranger to the world of politics. Jones is a Capitol Hill veteran, having worked in and around D.C. for well over a decade. For nearly eight years, she served as a Senate field representative for Southern Maryland, working for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and currently for U.S. Senator Ben Cardin[D].

“My roots are deep here; my ancestors have been in this county for hundreds of years,” Jones said. While she expressed a great deal of gratitude for her job as a field representative, she was eager for this opportunity because it would allow her to advocate for the region “on a deeper and more personal level.” 

But District 27B is different. It is comprised of areas of both Calvert and Prince George’s County. This presents a challenge to anyone who represents it because Calvert votes predominately conservative, while Prince George’s usually leans and pushes the district to be more liberal. Jones said people like the late State Senator Miller, and now Senator Jackson, have influenced her views on representing the district.

“Senator Miller worked so hard in this difficult district because it straddles two distinctly different counties, and Senator Miller effectively navigated those challenges and so did now Senator Jackson,” she said. “They understood what each county needed and how to best fight for each county. I believed that it wasn’t just that I had a desire to serve but I was knowledgeable on the ongoing issues affecting both counties and I knew how to step in prepared to best continue to advocate for both counties”

However, Delegate Jones says that she is prepared to act in a manner that benefits both counties and hopes her history of being a legislative advocate for the region will earn her trust among her varied constituents.

“When I vote with my Democratic counterparts, I know that will not always be appealing to my Republican constituents here in Calvert,” Jones said. “I also understand that the relationship I have built with the community, its leaders, and elected officials means that they know I will lead with integrity, so it’s not just that I’m making a decision based on party lines.”

Jones talked about her experience and desire to reach across the aisle politically, saying “I really do see myself as someone who can be a bridge to help navigate different difficult situations to try to help offer perspective. It’s not about playing devil’s advocate, necessarily, but it’s about saying, here are all the perspectives because that’s been my job is to weigh all the perspectives.”

Jones singled out several issues which she views as pressing such as transportation and the future of the Thomas Johnson Bridge, supporting local agriculture and farmers, and promoting growth for future generations without compromising the rural characteristics ingrained in Calvert County’s identity. Jones also emphasized a need to provide affordable housing for younger generations and specifically millennial families.

Jones’s appointment has come almost two-months into the General Assembly’s session. When asked about issues within the current session, Jones signaled that criminal justice is one of her top priorities.

“I would like to see changes made in police reform and systemic racism,” Jones said. “I know that there is a sect of the population that does not believe that systemic racism exists, but if I could tell you the stories that I have experienced right here in Calvert throughout my life and other places. I can tell you that it does exist because I have seen it firsthand.”

She further explained the complexity of the issue and the role that governments should play in it.

“I know you cannot legislate hatred out of anyone’s heart, you cannot legislate how someone may personally treat a person,” she said. “But what we can do is make sure that policy is in place that ensures that we are being just, and we are being fair in the ways that our laws are written.”

Jones won’t be able to introduce any of her own legislation in the current session, but this hasn’t stopped her from planning future legislative pursuits, with education being on her slate. Specifically, she mentioned her personal connection to education access and learning accommodations.

One of her sons being on the autism spectrum, she has plenty of personal interaction with the education system in this manner.

“I feel that it is not as easy as it should be for parents of children with special needs to get the services and accommodations that they need for their children,” Jones said. “So, one of the things that I will be advocating for is ensuring that there is less hurdles for parents.

I am a mother who’s had a flexible schedule, a mother who has been able to show up and participate in every single IEP meeting or 504 plan, meeting with teachers and principals. But there are parents who work shift work, multiple jobs, who don’t, who have a lack of educational resources to be able to get informed to know how to advocate for their child.”

When asked about re-election, the delegate said that “It’s certainly on my mind.” She said seeking office was something that she had been considering before the vacancy opened.

In 2020, Jones graduated from the Emerge Maryland Program, which trains Democratic women on how to effectively run for political office. Several women holding office in Maryland have participated in the program, including fellow Prince George’s County Delegates Wanika Fisher and Nicole Williams.

Jones seemed confident about the 2022 election cycle, saying “I am prepared to hit the ground running in April when session ends, and to begin a campaign cycle for the election next year.”

While Jones has an extensive background and experience in politics, she wants her constituents to know a few key things about her and how she represents them. Saying “I’m a woman who prioritizes my faith, my family and my community… and I will legislate and lead in a manner that displays that.”

She further added:

“I want folks to know that, that I have every resident of this district in mind that I know that while these issues may be polarizing, individually, as folks go home to their families at night, everyone just wants to be able to have a decent quality of life. They want to feel safe and secure in their communities and their homes. They want to know that their children can thrive. And I want to be able to make decisions that make it easier for people to do that… And for them to rest easy at night without so many burdens, and so many fears, and insecurities about the things that are happening in their state and in their county.”

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