Dr. Dana Beyer, a transgender-rights activist who serves as the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, announced Thursday morning that she plans to run for the 18th State Senate District seat that covers parts of Montgomery County including Chevy Chase, Kensington and Bethesda, citing the need for ''economic fairness and equal opportunity.''
The race sets up Beyer, who unsuccessfully ran for the House of Delegates in 2006 and 2010, against incumbent Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery Co.), Maryland's only openly gay senator, in the June 24 Democratic primary. In speaking with Metro Weekly, Beyer said she plans to ''stand up'' on issues of economic justice, as she has on social justice issues.
Beyer and Madaleno have worked together on a bill that would extend statewide nondiscrimination protections to transgender individuals in Maryland. That bill, which has been brought up during the past few General Assembly sessions but has yet to receive a full vote of the Senate, is scheduled for hearing on Feb. 4, and both Beyer and Madaleno are expected to testify in favor of it.
Beyer, a retired surgeon, mother of two and a prominent progressive activist who used to work for the Montgomery County Council, touted that record of fighting for social justice in a press release announcing her candidacy. She also emphasized the importance of progressive approaches to bread-and-butter issues like jobs, education, infrastructure and health care affordability by calling for eliminating corporate tax loopholes and instituting a public option for health insurance.
''Politics is the 'art of the possible,''' Beyer said in a statement. ''The possible only becomes probable – and then actual – when people care, are willing to step forward and change the conversation, take risks and reach out to each other and build the better world of which we all dream. I ask for your support and your vote, and in return I promise to be the progressive champion Montgomery County sorely needs.''
Responding to Beyer's announcement, Madaleno says he believes he will get re-elected, citing his success in pushing through policies regarding marriage equality, Maryland's version of the DREAM act, education funding and a fairer tax structure, as well as his endorsements by various liberal groups, including Equality Maryland PAC and the Victory Fund.
"Obviously anyone is welcome to run for the seat," he says. "I'm confident that with my record of achievement for 12 years in the General Assembly, the voters will hopefully make the right choice and re-nominate me for re-election."
"It was an easy endorsement for us to make," says Williams, noting that Madaleno is the chief sponsor of the gender identity protections bill and serves unofficially as the dean of the LGBT legislative caucus.
"He's well-respected and an effective legislator, not just on LGBT issues, but on budget and tax issues as well," says Williams. "Having another LGBT ally running in the primary runs the risk of diverting resources, though I can't comment on why Dana Beyer feels she'd be a better senator than Rich Madaleno."
[EDITOR'S NOTE, Thursday, Jan. 30, 11:56 a.m.: This story was updated to include comment from Timothy Williams. Thursday, Jan. 30, 4:45 p.m.: This story was updated to include comment from Madaleno.]