Q&A with State Senator Cheryl Kagan

Ari Kittrie, Opinion Editor

How did you get into politics?

There was a vacancy in the House in my district. It took people eight months to talk me into it, but I did decide to run. It was a 10-way race with two incumbents and then eight of us running for the third seat in the House, and I won. I served eight years and chose not to seek reelection. I was out and back in the community but still active in politics. That’s when I worked for BBYO and other nonprofits. I ran a charitable foundation, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, which contributed over $1,000,000 a year to area nonprofits. Then, after a 12-year gap, I ended up returning to Annapolis as a senator representing the same district.

Why are mentors so important?

Mentors are so valuable because they are there to give us honest feedback, as well as to be our cheerleaders and teachers. Mentors tell us when we’re getting off on the wrong track and give us their perspective and whether or not we agree with it, we have their honest and caring advice.

What steps should be taken against rising anti-Semitism?

The rise in antisemitism has been devastating to watch and experience. I’ve been on the board of the AJC, American Jewish Committee, since 1999, and issues around hate and bias have been a focus of mine for a very long time now. Part of the answer is education. Part of it is exposure to people who are different from us. Where there is ignorance, there can be misinformation and unfounded hate or bias.

With the rise of antisemitism, has your role as a Jewish Maryland legislator, changed at all?

I have brought my rabbi down first to the House and now the Senate virtually every year that I’ve been in office. I have brought my rabbi or another Jewish leader to share his thoughts and messages about diversity and inclusion. This year, my new associate rabbi, Rachel Simmons, came down a couple of weeks ago. But, it’s normally my senior rabbi, Adam Raskin. Adam Raskin has been a very well-liked and well-respected voice when he comes down and offers an opening prayer.

What bills are you most excited about?

I have 26 bills. So, I was just awarded the National 911 Leader of the Year by the National 911 Institute. I have four bills related to 911 in order to save lives and make our emergency systems work better. I have two bills related to allowing immigrants to help address some of our workforce shortages in the fields of healthcare and public safety. I have a bill that would make single-stall bathrooms gender-neutral, which has already been done in Montgomery County, Howard County, Baltimore City, Salisbury, and elsewhere. I have a bunch of consumer protection bills. I have three nonprofit bills. I have a wide variety. So, I call myself a common sense progressive or a pragmatic progressive.