2021 | Politics

Union activist trying again to win upcounty state delegate seat

All three District 39 incumbents are seeking re-election; one is at odds with union over police reform

share this

Clint Sobratti, top left, is a challenger running for a state delegate seat in District 39. The incumbents are, clockwise from top right, Gabriel Acevero, Lesley Lopez and Kirill Reznik.

Submitted photo of Sobratti; others from Maryland Manual

The state delegate race in a north Montgomery County district features an incumbent at odds with a union where he used to work and a challenger who is an officer in the same union.

Gabriel Acevero, one of three delegates representing District 39, is a former union employee. He has fallen out of favor, and said it’s because of his advocacy for police reform bills that some union members oppose.

The newcomer is fellow Democrat Clint Sobratti, who, after failing to win a seat to represent District 39 in 2018, is running again.

Besides Acevedo, two other Democratic incumbents — Kirill Reznik and Lesley Lopez — are seeking another term.

Sobratti, 48, is a vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 MCGEO, a union representing approximately 9,000 workers in Maryland, primarily in public service. He lives in Montgomery Village and works as a transit coordinator for the RideOn bus system.

In a 2018 Democratic primary in District 39, Sobratti finished last among seven candidates, with about 4.5 percent of the vote. He said he’s learned a lot since then.

“I was new then,” Sobratti said. “Now I have a better sense of that district.”

District 39 stretches from Montgomery Village to encompass parts of Germantown and areas to the north along Md. 355.

Acevero once worked for Local 1994 MCGEO. But he was terminated from the union last year.

He has said the firing was illegal because it was based on his advocacy for police reforms. He sponsored a measure known as “Anton’s Law,” part of a far-reaching package of policing bills approved by the General Assembly earlier this year.

“The reason why I was terminated,” Acevero told The New York Times, “was about legislation.” During an interview on Tuesday, he declined to talk more about his termination, saying he wanted to focus on the issues in this year’s race.

Acevero’s legislation, named after 19-year-old Anton Black, who died while in police custody on the Eastern Shore, amended the Maryland Public Information Act to allow complaints about police shootings and misconduct records to become public.

Acevero also pressed for a repeal of Maryland’s first-in-the-nation Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, legislation approved in 1976 that gave police certain procedural protections against allegations of misconduct.

Local 1994 MCGEO represents law enforcement officers who opposed Acevero’s efforts, including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office — which has 180 employees, 148 law enforcement officers — and the Cumberland Police Department.

Acevero filed a formal charge about his dismissal with the National Labor Relations board last year.

Gino Renne, the union local’s president who fired Acevero, said his attorneys advised him against speaking about the case.

But Renne said the union is backing Sobratti’s candidacy.

“We’re all in,” Renne said. “(Sobratti’s election) would be a boost to working families.”

Acevero said he prefers to focus his race for re-election on the record he has built over the past three-and-a-half years in office.

“I’m proud of my progressive record and what I’ve been able to accomplish for my constituents, but I still have unfinished business,” he said. “I want to make sure Maryland is as good as it says on paper.”

Reznik has represented District 39 since October 2007. He said he “personally knows” Sobratti and that the challenger is “very active in politics and community associations.”

“I welcome him to the race as I welcome anyone else who wants to run,” Reznik said.

Lopez was elected in 2018 and is in her first term. She said she ran when Charles Barkley decided not to run for re-election, leaving an open seat that attracted several candidates.

Lopez said she’s planning to run for re-election and will file her candidacy during the General Assembly’s special session to consider a new redistricting map, which will be held Dec. 6 through 10.

After the legislature adopts a final district map, other candidates might apply to challenge the incumbents in District 39.

The deadline for candidates to file is Feb. 22. The 2022 primary will be on June 28 and the general election will be Nov. 8.