Wednesday, January 11th, signaled the beginning of the 437th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. Each legislator returning to the General Assembly, and the set of legislators making their debuts this session, bring with them unique perspectives and backgrounds that shape how they view government. Despite the diversity in professions amongst the members of the General Assembly, few view the legislature in the same perspective as Delegate Cory McCray. A savvy businessman and entrepreneur, Delegate McCray has been able to use the same skills that helped him build a successful career as a small business owner to help shape the political landscape across the State and Baltimore city. While interviewing Delegate McCray, I learned how he got involved in government, what he has learned since being in Annapolis, and what issues he plans to focus on in the 2017 Legislative Session.
Delegate Cory McCray was born and raised in Baltimore City. As a child, he attended Baltimore city public schools and would eventually graduate from Fairmount-Harford High School. Following graduation, Delegate McCray decided to pursue a trade and eventually chose to work as an electrician. A proud member of the Local No. 24, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, he has worked on projects for the National Aquarium, CSX Transportation, and performed vast industrial and construction related tasks for businesses throughout Baltimore City. In addition to his work as an electrician, Delegate McCray has eagerly embarked on a career as a small business owner. At just twenty years old, he began purchasing homes along the Belair Road corridor in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Baltimore City. Today, he owns and operates his own real estate company, McCray Properties LLC.
Given his success as an electrician and entrepreneur, Delegate McCray initially had very little interest in Government and politics. However, as his business began to expand and he met with larger groups of people, he began to see the vital role that politics play in everyday life. Delegate McCray explained, “As you get in bigger circles, you learn that everything is political. Politics surrounds everything that you do.” Delegate McCray credits Tony Dawson, former President of the Belair-Edison Community Association as being one of the first people who challenged him to get involved with local and state-wide politics. Equipped with a new perspective, Delegate McCray began organizing campaigns for the IBEW. Although the campaigns were not related to government, Delegate McCray gained valuable experience on how to plan and execute campaign strategies during this time. For three years, Delegate McCray traveled to Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia to support union campaign elections and help organize the work force.
Although Delegate McCray enjoyed his time organizing union campaigns, he ultimately knew that he wanted to do more to help the community he lived in. Delegate McCray says that he became frustrated watching legislation which he thought could improve his community fail to pass or gain any traction in the General Assembly. “I saw a lot of different bills and I thought that they were good bills for my community. I didn’t understand why they weren’t moving or why people were voting against them. I didn’t understand, especially for the people that represented districts with high poverty, high unemployment, high crime. And then I realized how things really were.” Delegate McCray realized that there was a pool of young and energetic community leaders who wanted to make city and statewide improvements, but were lacking opportunities to take meaningful leadership roles within government. As he describes it, “political machines” were controlling which individuals were advancing in leadership positions and which issues were prioritized. With a background in business, Delegate McCray knew that he and the group of young leaders must put together a plan to ensure that the political machine no longer exercised its control over the legislative process. Thus, Delegate McCray decided he would run for the House of Delegates in the 45th district representing Baltimore city. Starting with his own campaign, Delegate McCray established a business plan organizing his message, how he would share that message with district 45 residents, and what steps he needed to take to ensure he joined the legislature. After successfully executing his plan, Delegate McCray was elected to and joined the Maryland General Assembly in 2015. Today, he serves as a valued member of the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
Since joining the General Assembly in 2015, Delegate McCray has learned that, “Its 100% about relationships and meeting with folks to understand the dynamics of what’s going on. You should try your best to build those relationships, especially with people in your committee.” While understanding the politics taking place in Annapolis, Delegate McCray believes effective legislators put politics aside to do what is best to move the state and districts they represent forward. “No matter what, the General Assembly is about getting to the middle. So it’s not about this extreme or that extreme, its finding where the balance is at in the issue that you have in front of you. There must be dialogue. You must know the rules, build the relationships, look for some sort of compromise in your bill, and pay attention to the money.” One thing Delegate McCray does in particular is pay attention to capital construction projects that come to his district. He believes that when these projects are proposed, an opportunity arises to sit with people utilizing state funds to explain the challenges facing his district and Baltimore City.
Amongst his legislative accomplishments, Delegate McCray believes his biggest legislative achievement has been restoring the voting rights to the nearly 40,000 felons previously disenfranchised by state law. Speaking of the legislation he sponsored, Delegate McCray pointed out that an overwhelming majority of the disenf
ranchised citizens resided in Baltimore City. In his view, the legislation was an attempt to help reintegrate felons into society and force legislators to pay more attention to a previously ignored constituency. “Politicians may say they pay attention to everybody but we all know they pay attention to places that vote. If you can increase the voting population, you can increase the value. I look at it from an entrepreneur level. Increasing that value makes people begin to pay more attention to the subject.” The felon voting rights legislation is one example of how Delegate McCray has used business principles to advocate for undeserving communities with Baltimore City in mind. It is his hope that the legislation will continue to push the General Assembly
to eliminate arbitrary barriers to equality from existing law.
During the 437th legislative session, Delegate McCray will continue to work on the subjects and issues he is passionate about. He plans to advocate for stronger apprenticeships programs, leveraging capital dollars to create better workforce opportunities, and improving living conditions in Baltimore city. He will push for transparency in the legislature and seek to set aside partisan politics in the interest of all Marylanders. Given his background as a successful entrepreneur, businessman, and now politician, we expect another successful legislative session from Delegate Cory McCray.
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