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Politicians On All Sides Tell Harford Delegate To Resign

Rachel Baye

Calls for state Del. Mary Ann Lisanti to resign are growing after it was revealed this week that she used a racial slur to refer to residents of Prince George’s County. The Democrat from Harford County has already been stripped of her leadership position, but the state Legislative Black Caucus and other groups say that’s not enough.

According to The Washington Post, Lisanti was at an evening event in Annapolis last month when she referred to a district in Prince George’s County as an “n------ district.”

Lisanti, who just started her second four-year term, said she didn’t recall the event. When the paper asked her if she had ever used the word, she reportedly said, “I’m sure everyone has used it.”

In a statement Lisanti issued on Tuesday, she walked that back.

“I am sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth,” she wrote. “It does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what is my heart.”

“One of the most disturbing things about what she said is that, ‘Doesn’t everyone speak this way?’” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said to reporters on Wednesday.

Alsobrooks said Lisanti should resign.

“I think anybody would agree that a person who goes to work and espouses the views that she did should be fired,” Alsobrooks said. “I didn’t hire her. The people who hired her should decide whether to fire her. I think she should be fired. I think she should resign.”

Alsobrooks’ voice is just one in a chorus calling for Lisanti to step down.

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus voted to formally ask Lisanti to resign. Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes, whose district is in Prince George’s County, said he plans to write a letter to Lisanti on behalf of the caucus.

“The world is watching what we do right here in the state of Maryland. Our young people are watching what we do right here in the state of Maryland,” Barnes said. “I truly believe as leaders it’s our responsibility to lead, and part of that leadership is sometimes for some to make tough decisions.”

Others calling for Lisanti’s resignation include the state Democratic and Republican parties, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Anthony Brown, whose district includes much of Prince George’s County.

On Twitter, Gov. Larry Hogan wrote, “The language of racism and hate has no place in our public discourse. Any public official who engages in this reprehensible conduct should do the right thing and step down.”

In a statement on Tuesday, House Speaker Michael Busch announced that he is removing Lisanti as head of the Economic Matters Committee’s Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee. He is also requiring her to undergo sensitivity training.

Busch’s office declined to comment specifically on the calls for Lisanti to resign. Lisanti did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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