Maryland Democrat booted from state House leadership post over racial slur

A Democratic member of Maryland's House of Delegates was removed as chairwoman of a subcommittee on Tuesday after an account of her using a racial slur during an after-hours gathering at an Annapolis cigar bar last month was published by The Washington Post.

Mary Ann Lisanti, 51, apologized to the Maryland House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, one day after she apologized to the leaders of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. In a message to her constituents in Harford County northeast of Baltimore, Lisanti said she was "ashamed" and "sickened" she had used the word, which "does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what’s in my heart."

It is my hope and prayer that you ... can forgive me for the pain that I have caused, and help me to mend what I have broken," she added. "I will continue work every day to repent for my actions and represent my constituents."

The Post reported on Monday that Lisanti told a white colleague that he had been campaigning in a "[N-word] district" in mostly black Prince George's County to support a candidate in last fall's elections. Asked about it by the newspaper earlier this month, The Post reported that Lisanti said, "I don't recall that. ... I don't recall much of that evening."

When asked by The Post whether she had ever used the slur, the newspaper reported that she said: "I'm sure I have. ... I'm sure everyone has used it."

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Del. Darryl Barnes, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland chairman, described Lisanti's apology as "woefully inadequate" and urged House Speaker Michael Busch to discipline the delegate. Busch, also a Democrat, announced Lisanti would no longer chair the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee, because "I believe that leaders in the House need to be able to bring people together -- not tear them apart."

Busch also said that Lisanti had agreed to sensitivity training.

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"I hope that through sensitivity training that Delegate Lisanti has agreed to and the help of her colleagues, she will develop a greater understanding of the impact that she has had on her fellow legislators and the entire House of Delegates," Busch said in a statement.

Barnes, who represents part of Prince George's County, noted in his letter to Busch that African-Americans make up nearly 30 percent of Maryland's population. He also pointed out that the Maryland General Assembly has 57 black members out of 188 legislators.

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"It is clear that Delegate Lisanti is unsuited to continue in a position of leadership in the Maryland General Assembly," Barnes said in the letter. "We have been receiving calls for her resignation, removal of subcommittee chairmanship, and to be censured on the House floor."

In neighboring Virginia, the state government has been embroiled in scandal since Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, acknowledged they wore blackface in the 1980s. They both resisted calls to resign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.