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Aisha Braveboy is both lawyer and delegate

Published in 2011 Maryland Rising Stars — January 2011

If you search the Web for Aisha Braveboy, representative for the 25th District in the Maryland House of Delegates, you’ll find her.

If you search the Web for Aisha Braveboy, real estate lawyer, you’ll have less luck. She doesn’t have a website for her successful solo practice.

There’s a reason. Though the House meets only three months during the year, from January to April, she says, “I can’t really take on a large volume of clients. I’m still a delegate. I still have the responsibility to my community—attending meetings, working out community issues—throughout the year.”

She adds, “I really can’t pick which [role] is more important to me because I took an oath for both of them.”

Interestingly, Braveboy hadn’t planned on representing clients or constituents.

“I took a class at the University of Maryland on blacks and the Voting Rights Act,” she says. “And through the process of reading those cases and figuring out how it all works, I got really interested in the law.”

After attending Howard University School of Law, Braveboy took a position with the FCC in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Then she volunteered for the campaign of another Howard law grad, Jack B. Johnson, who was running for county executive.

“When we won, he asked me to work for his administration,” says Braveboy, who became one of Johnson’s legislative officers. “I thought, ‘What an opportunity to serve people and use the skills that I’ve learned [as an attorney].’ I mean, that’s what we tell our children to do—to go off and get an education and come back and use it in the community.”

Her job was to go to community meetings on behalf of the county executive if the executive was unable to attend, and report back. “I got really good at that,” she says, laughing. “I’d start by saying, ‘I apologize that the county executive could not be here,’ but oftentimes the community leaders would say they enjoyed having me there.”

 Eventually county civic leaders told her she should run for office herself. “I hadn’t really thought about it,” she adds. But when Anthony G. Brown, now lieutenant governor, chose not to seek re-election in her district for 2006, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. She prevailed.

Braveboy rattles off a list of priorities she’s fought for in the House: promoting green enterprise; improving the state’s infrastructure; decreasing the high school dropout rate; and empowering homeowners.

“When you’re an elected official, and even as an attorney … the stories that you hear touch your heart in such a way that you just feel blessed for what you have,” she says. “But it also makes you think that you’ve got to do more, you’ve got to do better. That the status quo isn’t good enough.”

She is proud to have helped pass a prevailing wage rates bill, ensuring employees working on public construction projects are paid market wage. Increasingly, her priority is the job market. “How do we bring jobs here? How do we train a work force so that they can [be hired for] those jobs when they do come?”

Are there conflicts of interest between her two jobs? Not really, she says. “State ethics laws allow legislators who are attorneys to represent clients, in the normal course of business, before government agencies,” Braveboy says. “So I might have a client who wants to add an addition onto a home or who needs a permit to build an access road. I may have interactions with the local zoning or permits offices to assist those clients.”

But the legal side certainly helps the political side.  “As attorneys, we’re trained to be persuasive and when you’re trying to get people to vote for your bill, you have to convince them that it’s the right thing to do.” She’s also often asked to explain the intricacies of legislative language to her fellow delegates. “How does putting an ‘and’ here change [a bill], when there was an ‘or’ before?”

And are those questions she might answer in the U.S. Congress?

“We elected our first African-American congresswoman for the state of Maryland named Donna Edwards,” she says, “and I think she’s doing a fantastic job. Now, if she were ever to leave her position, it’s something I would consider.”

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