Donna Edwards

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Donna Edwards
The hon donna edwards.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th district
In office
June 17, 2008 – January 3, 2017
Preceded byAlbert Wynn
Succeeded byAnthony Brown
Personal details
Donna Fern Edwards

(1958-06-28) June 28, 1958 (age 64)
Yanceyville, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationWake Forest University (BA)
University of New Hampshire (JD)

Donna Fern Edwards[1] (born June 28, 1958) is an American politician who served as the U.S. representative for Maryland's 4th congressional district from 2008 to 2017. The district included most of Prince George's County, as well as part of Anne Arundel County. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

A lawyer and longtime community activist, she defeated 15-year incumbent Albert Wynn in the 2008 Democratic primary,[2] and, following his resignation, won a special election on June 17, 2008, to fill the remainder of this term.[3] She was sworn in two days later on June 19, becoming the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the United States Congress.[4] Edwards ran for a full term in November 2008, defeating Republican candidate Peter James with 85% of the vote.[5] She ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 in the primary to replace retiring Barbara Mikulski instead of running for re-election to her Congressional seat, but was defeated by Chris Van Hollen in the Democratic primary.[6]

She sponsored an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would repeal the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[7]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Edwards was born in Yanceyville, North Carolina. She earned B.A. degrees in English and Spanish from Wake Forest University, where she was one of only six black women in the class of 1980.[8] After working for Lockheed Corporation at the Goddard Space Flight Center with the Spacelab program,[9] she attended and earned a J.D. in 1989 from the Franklin Pierce Law Center (now known as the University of New Hampshire School of Law). Edwards worked for Albert Wynn as a clerk in the 1980s, when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates.[10]

Community activism[edit]

Edwards co-founded and served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an advocacy and legal support group for battered women. She worked to pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

She later worked with Public Citizen, and then as the executive director of the Center for a New Democracy. In 2000, she became the executive director of the Arca Foundation, taking a leave of absence during her political campaign.

In the spring of 2015, Edwards, along with several other members of the House of Representatives, introduced the Restoring Education and Learning Act (REAL Act) to bring back Pell Grants to prisoners. Edwards' press release outlines numerous advantages to prisoner education, including net benefits to taxpayers who bear the costs of recidivism.[11]

Edwards is a national co-chair of the progressive group Health Care Voter.[12]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

Arrest during Darfur protest in Washington, D.C.[edit]

On April 27, 2009, Rep. Donna Edwards was arrested outside the Sudan embassy during a protest against genocide in Darfur.[13] The Representative and five other U.S. Congressional Representatives were protesting the blocking of aid to victims. They were arrested after ignoring warnings issued by police maintaining a police line to protect the embassy in Washington, D.C.

The other U.S. lawmakers arrested during the protest were Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia), and Lynn Woolsey (D-California).[14]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political campaigns[edit]

Edwards speaking with a U.S. Navy sailor in May 2009.


Edwards challenged seven-term incumbent Al Wynn in the 2006 Democratic primary – the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. Edwards focused primarily on Wynn's voting record. Wynn, considered a conservative by African-American Democratic standards, was one of four Congressional Black Caucus members that voted for the 2002 Iraq War resolution. Edwards condemned the war before it started. Wynn eventually began to say he was misled by the Bush Administration and his vote was a mistake. Edwards opposed the repeal of the estate tax, which Wynn voted for. Similarly, Edwards criticized Wynn's vote for the bankruptcy bill of 2005, which eliminated some bankruptcy protections for individuals. Wynn supported the energy bill promoted by Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney. Wynn opposed the net neutrality bill of 2006, which Edwards supports.

On August 16, 2006, before a debate at Prince George's Community College, an altercation occurred between Wynn's staffers and an Edwards volunteer, leaving the volunteer with a bloody gash to the head.[16] This event brought much media attention to the race.

On August 30, 2006, The Washington Post endorsed Edwards in the primary race.[17]

The primary was held on September 12, 2006. Wynn defeated Edwards by 49.7 percent to 46.4 percent, with a margin of 2,725 votes out of more than 82,000 cast. George McDermott, a little-known candidate, took 3.9 percent.[18] The final tally of the primary was unclear for nearly two weeks because of widespread voting problems on new electronic voting machines in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.[19]


Edwards with Danny Glover and Matt Stoller, January 2008.

In 2008, Edwards again challenged Wynn for his seat in the Democratic primary. During the 2008 campaign, Edwards accused Wynn of being out of touch with the community and of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of corporate money. Wynn counter-attacked Edwards as hypocritical, citing the fact that she served as executive director of the Arca Foundation, an organization that has invested millions of dollars in oil and gas companies.[20]

Edwards at her victory rally on February 13, 2008

In the February 12, 2008, primary, Edwards defeated the eight-term incumbent in a rout, taking 60% of the vote to Wynn's 35%. The win virtually assured her of victory in the heavily Democratic district in November.[21]

After the primary, Wynn announced he would retire effective June 2008. Edwards won the Democratic nomination for the June 17, 2008, special election to serve out the last six months of Wynn's term.[22]

Edwards won the backing of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Democratic Party Central Committee April 22, 2008, by a 22 to 1 margin. Two days later, the Prince George's County Democratic Party Central Committee also recommended Edwards, this by a 17 to 0 vote on April 24, 2008.

As expected, Edwards easily won the special election, taking 81 percent of the vote over Republican Peter James and Libertarian Thibeaux Lincecum.[23] She took office two days later, giving her a leg-up on seniority over any new congresspersons who were elected in 2008.

Edwards ran for a full term in November 2008 and was an overwhelming favorite; a Republican has never tallied more than 25 percent of the vote in the 4th district since it assumed its current configuration after the 1990 Census.[24] Indeed, many of the 4th district's residents already thought of her as the district's congresswoman even before the special election.[3] As expected, Edwards easily won a full term with 85 percent of the vote, one of the highest percentages in the nation for a Democrat facing major-party opposition.[5]


Edwards won against Delegate Herman L. Taylor, Jr. in the September, 2010, primary, and then defeated Republican Robert Broadus with 83 percent of the vote in the general election.


Edwards won against George McDermott and Ian Garner in the Democratic primary, and then defeated Republican Faith M. Loudon and Libertarian Scott Soffen with 77 percent of the vote in the general election.


Edwards won against Warren Christopher in the Democratic primary, and then defeated Republican Nancy Hoyt and Libertarian Arvin Vohra with 70 percent of the vote in the general election.


Edwards and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) faced off in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Barbara Mikulski's (D) retirement.[25] She lost the primary election on April 26, 2016. Since she had run for the Senate seat, instead of for reelection to her Congressional seat, Edwards left public office when her term expired in January 2017, and was succeeded by former lieutenant governor Anthony G. Brown.


Edwards ran for Prince George's County Executive but lost to Angela Alsobrooks in the Democratic primary,[26] despite benefitting from an outside group that spent nearly $1 million to support Edwards and ran what The Washington Post deemed a "smear campaign".[27] Edwards received 24 percent of the vote, while Alsobrooks received 62 percent.[28]


After Anthony Brown's announcement that he would not be running for re-election to Congress in order to run for state attorney general, Edwards announced on January 20, 2022, that she would be running in the 2022 U.S. House elections for her old seat, Maryland's 4th congressional district.[29] United Democracy Project, a super PAC associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, ran nearly $6 million worth of advertising attacking Edwards during the primary election cycle. Her successful opponent, Glenn Ivey, also received almost half of his campaign contributions from donors associated with AIPAC.[30] Edwards was supported by $720,000 from the J Street PAC, and $550,000 from the League of Conservation Voters.[31] The New York Times described the race as a "proxy fight over Israel".[32]

Personal life[edit]

Edwards lives in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

On July 7, 2017, she announced that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.[33] Edwards went on MSNBC programs (including AMJoy on July 15, 2017) to explain how the current health care bill that was up for a vote would affect her as a person with multiple sclerosis, and would affect other people with pre-existing conditions. She penned an op-ed for The Washington Post.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wake Forest University Commencement Programs". North Carolina Yearbooks: 7. May 18, 1981. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  2. ^ Helderman, Rosalin S; Wan, William (2008-02-13). "Md. Challenger Edwards Wins Stunning Victory Over Long-Time Incumbent Wynn". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  3. ^ a b Rosalind S. Helderman and James Hohmann (2008-06-17). "Edwards Wins Congressional Seat". The Washington Post. p. B1. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  4. ^ Teitelbaum, Michael (2008-06-19). "Maryland's Edwards Fills House". Congressional Quarterly. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  5. ^ a b "2008 Elections for President, Congress, and Governor". The Washington Post. 2008-11-06. Archived from the original on 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  6. ^ Weiner, Rachel (April 27, 2016). "Van Hollen defeats Edwards in heated Maryland primary for U.S. Senate". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds for political activity by corporations. H.J.Res.25" (PDF). Library of Congress. 2013-02-06.
  8. ^ "Donna Edwards' Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  9. ^ Bolden, Charles (June 6, 2012). Blastoff: Encouraging Young People to Enter and Stay in the STEM Fields (PDF) (Speech). Blastoff: Encouraging Young People to Enter and Stay in the STEM Fields. Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  10. ^ "Donna F. Edwards, U.S. Representative (Maryland)". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  11. ^ SpearIt (2016-01-06). "Keeping It REAL: Why Congress Must Act to Restore Pell Grant Funding for Prisoners". Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN 2711979. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "When my former colleagues in Congress attack health care, they attack me". The Hill. October 18, 2018.
  13. ^ "U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy". CNN. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  14. ^ 5 in Congress arrested at Darfur protest. April 27, 2009.
  15. ^ "Congressional Progressive Caucus Members". Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  16. ^ Wiggins, Ovetta (2006-08-18). "Supporters Scuffle At Candidate Forum". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  17. ^ "For Congress in Maryland". The Washington Post. 2006-08-30. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  18. ^ "REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS Results". Maryland State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  19. ^ Spiegal, Brendan (2006-09-25). "Prolonged Vote Count in Md. 4 Ends With Victory for Wynn". Archived from the original on 2006-10-27. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  20. ^ Teitelbaum, Michael (2008-01-08). "Challenger Seeks to Dramatize Rep. Wynn's Lobbyist Links". Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  21. ^ Helderman, Rosalind (2008-02-13). "Edwards overpowers Wynn". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  22. ^ The Washington Post: "Edwards Not Only Dem Interested in District 4". Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Maryland Board of Elections: 2008 Special 4th Congressional General Election Official Results.
  24. ^ Helderman, Rosalind."A GOP Congressional Candidate's Lonely Voice". The Washington Post, 2008-06-13.
  25. ^ Arelis R. Hernández, "U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards said to be announcing Senate bid on Tuesday", The Washington Post, March 8, 2015.
  26. ^ "Former Maryland congresswoman Donna Edwards to run for county executive". The Washington Post. October 5, 2017.
  27. ^ "Opinion | Outside money funds a dishonest smear campaign in Prince George's". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  28. ^ "2018 Prince George's County Primary Race Results". WTOP News. 2018-06-27. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  29. ^ Flynn, Meagan (January 20, 2022). "Donna Edwards jumps into the race for her old Md. congressional seat". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  30. ^ Ivey defeats Edwards in bitter, high-profile Md. primary for House, The Washington Post, Meagan Flynn, July 20, 2022. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  31. ^ "LCV Victory Fund Invests $550,000 to Support Donna Edwards in MD-04 Primary". League of Conservation Voters. Retrieved 2022-07-21.
  32. ^ "Biden's embrace of Israel sent clear message to party - Leading Dem". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2022-07-21.
  33. ^ To my colleagues in Congress: I have MS. Don't make my insurance unaffordable. By Donna F. Edwards. Washington Post. July 7, 2017
  34. ^ Marans, Daniel (July 8, 2017). "Former Congresswoman Pens Emotional Plea To Colleagues For Affordable Health Care". HuffPost. Retrieved December 21, 2020.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative