Candidate Mentored by Sen. Kelley Will Run Against Her

By Josh Kurtz and Bruce DePuyt

Another generational battle is on tap for a Baltimore-area state Senate seat.

Rob Johnson, an attorney and community activist, told Maryland Matters he will file papers Tuesday to challenge Sen. Delores G. Kelley in the Democratic primary in Baltimore County’s 10th District.

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Rob Johnson is running for state Senate.

Johnson ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2014, on a ticket headed by Kelley. He had been running for the House again this cycle but said he decided to switch to the Senate race after being encouraged to do so by several community leaders and union officials in the district.

“When I hear from some eight, nine community associations urging me consistently one way, then I heed the call,” Johnson said.

The groups, he added, are looking for new representation in Annapolis.

Johnson, 36, works as an attorney for the Prince George’s County Public Schools. He said he informed Kelley last week that he would be running against her.

Kelley and her husband both contributed money to Johnson’s House campaign last year.

“She said she understood where I was coming from,” Johnson said. “She hoped I was getting good advice. And that’s about as far as it went.”

Kelley, 81, is seeking a seventh term in the Senate representing Randallstown and surrounding communities. She previously served a term in the House of Delegates.

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State Sen. Delores Kelley is seeking a seventh term.           Photo by Bruce DePuyt

In an interview, Kelley said she was “sort of was surprised” when Johnson came to see her, but added, “everybody’s got a right to run.”

“I’ve mentored him and I put him on my ticket last time,” she said. “He didn’t win a single precinct, but I thought he was a nice young man and I helped him a lot.”

Kelley said she continues to provide vigorous representation for her constituents, noting that she has been the prime sponsor of 164 pieces of legislation that became law and serves on 10 boards and commissions when the legislature is not in session.

“I’m probably as productive as anybody that they have here,” she said.

Kelley said she is seeking another term because there are still more issues she wants to tackle.

Johnson’s decision to challenge Kelley creates another generational Democratic primary battle in the Baltimore area. In Baltimore City’s 45th District, first-term Del. Cory McCray is challenging Senate President Pro Tem Nathaniel J. McFadden. In the city’s 40th District, first-term Del. Antonio Hayes is running against state Sen. Barbara Robinson. And in the 44th District, which takes in Baltimore City and County, union activist Aletheia McCaskill is taking on Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam.

The 10th District Senate race is now a three-way affair. Lawrence Williams, a former school administrator, is also competing in the Democratic primary.

Through mid-January, Kelley had a major advantage on the fundraising front. She reported $68,000 on hand after raising $49,000 in the previous year.

Johnson had $13,000 in his campaign account after raising $9,600. His contributions included a $650 check last year from Kelley and $500 from her husband, Russell.

Williams did not report any fundraising activity last year.

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