A Tragic Loss

Prince George’s community activist Greg Hall, who was nominated to be a delegate from District 24 but was rejected by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2012 based on his criminal history, died in a car accident last night in Capitol Heights.

A Prince George’s County community activist and former drug dealer who unsuccessfully sought a seat in the Maryland State House died in a vehicle crash early Monday, authorities said.

Gregory Antoine Hall, 45, was driving westbound on Walker Mill Road in Capitol Heights about 2:50 a.m. when he was struck head-on by an eastbound SUV that had crossed into Hall’s lane of traffic, county police said in a statement.

Hall was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the striking vehicle suffered injuries that were not expected to be life-threatening, police said, as did the driver of another car, which the first vehicle sideswiped. Investigators are looking into whether alcohol or speed were factors in the crash.

Maryland politicians remembered Hall on Monday night as someone who had overcome a troubled past and used his experiences to encourage young people to make better choices.

“Greg Hall had made tremendous strides in his life,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s). “We all knew about some of the difficulties he had, but he made tremendous strides in turning his life around, and he was doing good work in the community. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

In 1992, as a 21-year-old crack dealer, Hall took part in a gun battle that killed a seventh-grade honors student who was leaving church with his family. Hall was charged with murder and spent 40 days in jail. But the charge was withdrawn after ballistics tests showed that the fatal bullet came from a different gun. Hall was convicted of a separate, misdemeanor gun violation.

Since then, Hall had opened his own business, worked as an aide to then-County Council member William A. Campos (D) and become a well-known advocate for some of the county’s lowest-income neighborhoods.

In 2010, he ran for state delegate, losing the Democratic primary by a few hundred votes. Two years later, after first-term Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D) was ousted from office in a corruption scandal, the Prince George’s County Democratic Committee nominated Hall to replace her. But then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) rejected the nomination, citing Hall’s criminal past. Hall ran for delegate again in 2014 but lost in the primary.

I didnt know Hall, but people whose opinions I value and respect expressed tremendous admiration for him. Any loss like this is a tragic one. Condolences to his family and friends.

The Rebel Jesus

I’ve written a version of this post every year since 2012. I lived with a Southern Baptist for over 23 years, and although we committed early on to raising our children Jewish, Christmas was a very big deal. We spent it in Texas with her family every year except when our two December babies were born, in 1994 and 2000. As you can imagine, Rebecca Lord was no stereotypical southern girl. She was opinionated, argumentative, and fearless, and she was strongly committed to her left wing beliefs. For her, religion was action and boy did she act.

Since her passing in July, 2012, I’ve become enormously committed to carrying forward her beliefs, which is fine because they dovetailed pretty well with mine. Not that you could always tell – we loved to fight and to argue, even when we agreed. It was sport, pure and simple, over things we cared deeply about and sometimes about stupid stuff like which was the fastest way to get from point A to point B.

That first Christmas in 2012, I couldn’t figure out what to write about. I knew I had something to say but wasn’t sure how to say it. That morning, listening to my iPod, I heard a song that crystallized what I needed to say about her, her background and her relationship to Christmas. It was “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne, and it’s remained the center of each Christmas post I’ve written since.

That 2012 post is here, and I beg your indulgence on this late Christmas Eve. As the world continues to sink more and more into chaos and despair and hate, we need more rebels if we’re ever going to begin to make progress on the burning issues we face. I’m distressed tonight having just watched “The Big Short” about the real story behind the 2008 Great Recession. But at the same time, inspired by the determination and grit and brilliance and kindness of the woman I was blessed to be with for so many years, I am equally determined not to give up.

Merry Christmas to everyone reading this. I hope this season brings you joy and peace. I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me to have so many people tell me how much they enjoy reading what I write. I know this – this blog is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I’m looking forward to continuing with it into a new year.  

And here’s Jackson Browne to serenade you into a tropical and balmy Christmas morning here in Maryland. Current temperature at 11:33 is 64 degrees.

Delegate Jim Proctor Died Today

Prince George’s Delegate Jim Proctor, vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, died earlier today at the age of 79. Josh Kurtz was first with the news, and the Sun has now also reported the sad news as well. 

He was a well-liked and respected legislator for many years. My condolences to his friends, family and colleagues.

In more mundane news, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee now has two vacancies to fill. 

Marvin Mandel Dead At 95

Former Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel, who became governor after the election of Spiro Agnew as Vice President in 1968, and who oversaw the modernization of the Maryland judicial and executive branches of government in the 1970s, died earlier today at 95. Governor Larry Hogan ordered flags to be flown at half staff in acknowledgement of Mandel’s passing, and he also issued a statement:

Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Mandel. He released a statement, saying: “The first lady and I send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Mandel family and all those who loved and cared for him. The state of Maryland lost not only a former governor but also a truly great leader and someone countless people thought of as a friend, including myself. I will be forever grateful for the advice, wisdom, and stories Governor Mandel has shared with me throughout the years.

“No other governor has had the lasting impact on all three branches of Maryland government and while he held elective office for 28 years, he dedicated his life to making our state a better place to live. It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Governor Mandel, but I know that his legacy will live on, through the many people he touched during the course of his life.”

One of the most colorful and interesting figures of Maryland politics for over a generation, Mandel was removed from office in 1977 after a racketeering and mail fraud conviction that was later overturned. Prior to that, he and his first wife separated in 1974 when Mandel began an affair with the woman who later became his second wife. His first wife refused to move out of the Governor’s mansion, forcing Mandel to rent an apartment in Annapolis until she agreed to leave, creating a public relations nightmare for the governor.

After his conviction was overturned, Mandel became a respected elder statesman for the Democratic Party for many years, one whose opinions and endorsements were eagerly sought after by statewide candidates. In the end, due to the many changes in government that Mandel brought to the state, perhaps no other single political figure had quite the same impact as Mandel, the only Jewish governor that Maryland has ever had.

Very Sad End For A Superhero

In case you missed it, Maryland’s own Batman (complete with a Lamborghini Batmobile) was killed yesterday after the Batmobile broke down near Hagerstown.

Lenny Robinson was 51. A tragic loss.

A local businessman who spent his free time dressing up as the Dark Knight and visiting sick kids in Maryland and D.C. hospitals, Robinson’s superhero alter ego went viral in 2012, when a video emerged of police pulling him over in his car, in full costume. He became a sensation, garnering attention on CNN, news programs and even on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, but despite the apparent fame his mission never changed: he would always famously proclaim in interviews that he was “just doing it for the kids.”

Robinson went viral back in 2012, when he was pulled over in full costume driving the Batmobile. RIP.

Day Of Reckoning – And Remembrance

I was looking at a bit of a problem today. It’s a big day in politics land, with the FEC deadline and several candidates not having shared their number yet. So there’ll be some good stuff to report, maybe even a nice chart comparing fundraising and cash on hand (COH) numbers. 

But today is also the third anniversary of my late wife Rebecca Lord’s death on July 15, 2012. So you can imagine I’d want to recognize that fact – maybe with no posting at all – but the reality is there’s some important news to report. And that’s my job.

What to do? I think I’ve worked it out. Rebecca, as anyone who knew her would attest, was an eminently practical woman, and I hope she’d appreciate my solution. I’m going to write today but only about two things: fundraising numbers and Rebecca Lord. I’m going to do one post later on today in her memory and honor. If you don’t know me and you didn’t know her, it’ll give you some insight. But it’s going to be much more for me than for anyone else.

For now, though, this blog is officially in mourning for the rest of July 15. To mark the occasion, and the great LGBT ally and advocate that Rebecca Lord was, the Pride flag will fly at half staff permanently, right here in this post.

She was and always will be the best person I’ve ever known.