Briana Urbina is the thirty-five year-old former lawyer and teacher looking to unseat Rep. Steny Hoyer to represent members of Maryland’s fifth district. Urbina and her now-wife initially moved from New York to Maryland six years ago in search of a state with marriage equality and a diverse community. After living here for six years and adopting her son, Urbina cannot think of another place that she would rather live.
Urbina expressed that her experiences “teaching in a broken school system” and “practicing law in a broken legal system” prepared her for Congress. Urbina stated that her time as a lawyer led her to better understand the inequities in the criminal justice system and the need for prison to be a place of rehabilitation instead of punishment. Additionally, Urbina’s experience as a school teacher and the primary caretaker of her disabled brother informed her view on childhood and college education.
Elaborating on her platform, Urbina, who identifies herself as a left-wing Democrat, supports single-payer healthcare, free preschool,college with debt forgiveness, the Green New Deal (a bill that would place a moratorium on the closure of public housing), a $15 federal minimum wage and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, to name a few positions.
When it comes to foreign policy, Urbina is critical of the government’s role in the Middle East. Urbina acknowledged that Israelis face real violence and that at this point Palestine will not go back to its 1946 borders, but claimed the US “can’t be a broker of peace when we back Israel.” Urbina stated that “Palestinians live in apartheid-like conditions” and proposed a one-state solution, in which Israel and Palestine are governed by a secular democracy. More broadly Urbina criticized the government’s tendency to condemn the human rights violations of countries that America does not get resources from while downplaying the actions of allies, like Saudi Arabia, that also have poor practices.
Refocusing to policies that directly affect St. Mary’s students, Urbina said that students should vote for her because she is “the only candidate who has served my community every day I live.” Urbina emphasized that she taught in schools that nobody wanted to teach in, represented immigrants in court, organized to support transgender rights in 2008 when gay marriage was still controversial among Democrats. As previously mentioned, Urbina supports college free at the point of service and favors further consumer protection against predatory for-profit college. Urbina emphasized that she personally experienced exploitation by a for-profit college and now holds over $300,000 in college debt which gives her a unique perspective into the problems that college students face.
In the face of the recent gun scare on camps, Urbina also laid out her positions on gun control. Urbina stated that she has not seen gun control legislation that she does not support. To combat the gun violence epidemic Urbina, at a minimum, supports an assault weapons ban, a national gun registry, and de-escalation training in schools to stop school shooters from getting to the point where they would pull the trigger. To further combat the root causes of gun violence, Urbina called for more community initiatives to reduce isolation and depression among potential shooters as well as greater funding for mental health services.
Despite all of her plans, Urbina has a long road to unseating the fifth district’s incumbent, Rep. Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is the chair of the Democratic Caucus and has served in Congress since 1981. According to Open Secrets, Hoyer has around one million dollars on hand and has plenty of connections that will help him in his reelection bid. When asked how she plans to beat the seemingly insurmountable opposition of Hoyer and become the first woman of color to represent the fifth district Urbina hinted that Hoyer is a paper tiger.
Making comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez unseating former Rep. Joe Crowly, NY-D, Urbina stated that she will better serve the fifth district by speaking out instead of collecting corporate money. Building on that point Urbina stated that “it’s not about the money or the metrics. It’s about the movement.”