Op/Ed: BALTIMORE STATE’S ATTORNEY RACE: Dr. Lana M. Asuncion-Bates, Wife of Ivan Bates, Responds to Invasive Actions of Vignarajah Campaign

By Lana M. Asuncion-Bates, Ed.D., NCSP

(BALTIMORE – March 26, 2018) – Following the unrest of Freddie Gray and the murder of my husband’s friend’s son, both in 2015, Ivan approached me to have a “serious talk.” In the past, he had mentioned becoming State’s Attorney as a possible next career move.  When he sat me down this time, the past talk now had become an immediate goal.

He told me he didn’t like how the Freddie Gray situation was proceeding.  He told me how his clients seemed to be more emboldened and not afraid of the police or prosecution.  He told me that seeing the death rate rise was taking a toll on him.  He said he couldn’t sit around and just watch.  He said he definitely wanted to be State’s Attorney, and he wanted to to do it now.

As he told me this, I heard the resolve in his voice. While his eyes pleaded with me to “just say okay,” I knew that he needed my blessing before moving forward.  We talked.  We discussed how this was going to be a huge sacrifice for our family monetarily, because this was going to be a substantial pay cut.  We discussed if he would be able to walk away from the successful business that he built on his back.

I, for one, was so proud of what he had accomplished thus far, and knew that his firm could reach even greater heights.  Most importantly, we talked about how this would affect our family personally.  I was enjoying our quiet life with our two daughters.  I had accepted that Ivan was well-known in the city and we couldn’t go anywhere without him being recognized, but this would surely take our recognizability to a whole other level.  This worried me because I’m a private person.  I’m not on social media.  I prefer to be with my family and friends than in a crowd of strangers.  I’m not used to people who I don’t know, knowing me.  We talked about how we are NOT politicians, and how we both thrive on authentic relationships rather than networking.  We talked about how running in this race would change our worlds, regardless of the outcome.

 From the moment Ivan sat me down and told me he wanted to do this, to become Baltimore City’s next State’s Attorney, I knew I could not deny him this.  Ivan is a public servant, not a politician, and I could see that his Spirit was calling him to serve Baltimore City.  Who was I to stand in the way?  So I only asked for one thing, to please protect our children and our marriage.  To do the best he could to keep us out of the public’s eye.  I could move forward with knowing that we would be thrust into the public eye because I knew we had nothing hide, no “skeletons in the closet”, so to speak.  But I also did not want us to be constantly on display.  We weren’t celebrities, nor should we be.
As the campaign began, Ivan was increasingly becoming more popular.  My children and I were only referred to nominally, and this is what I preferred. However, that changed on Tuesday, March 20th.  On that day I found out that a man and woman were knocking on our neighbors’ doors and questioning our neighbors, quite belligerently, about whether or not they knew who Ivan Bates was.  On a quiet weekday evening, our neighbors, who were settling into their evening routines with their spouses and children, were brought into a drama for which they did not ask.  This is exactly what I hoped would not happen.  I was angry, and I was scared.  Would they come back?  Would they try to approach my oldest daughter?  Were they following us?  What else would they do besides intimidating our neighbors?  Were we safe? Were my children safe?
When Ivan told me how he approached the man as he was knocking on a neighbor’s door, and how the man and the woman ran away, I was extremely disappointed that someone would go to these lengths to intimidate.  Later that evening, Ivan told me more.  He told me that this was the same man who, months earlier, approached Ivan and told him that “You people have screwed this city enough.”  Ivan is a black man.  This was a white man who said this to him.
I am proud to share my husband with the City of Baltimore.  He is a great man who is destined to continue to do great things.  I have agreed to, and will continue to, support my husband with all that I have and all that I am, because that is what I desire to do.  I am also a mother, and a career woman.  I have worked hard to accomplish my professional goals and I strive to keep my professional life apart from Ivan’s campaign.  But most importantly, I have the honor of raising, teaching, protecting, and deeply loving two beautiful Spirits, and this is the duty that I hold most sacred.  The well-being of my daughters, every day and in every way, is my topmost purpose. I move forward in this purpose fiercely and unapologetically.
As we continue with this campaign, my goal is two-fold: protect my daughters, my marriage, and my career – in that order – and support my husband.  I do this because it is what a mother and a wife does.  But I do this with a constant prayer on my lips – “Lord, keep us safe.  Keep my children protected.  Keep us near.”
As we move forward, I pray that the candidates involved in this race keep one thing in focus – the well-being of the citizens of Baltimore City.  As I pray to keep my children safe, many more parents in the City have the same prayers on their lips and in their hearts, daily.  And too many of those prayers have been met with tragedy.
My hope is that the candidates understand that this race is not about “winning.”  It is about nothing else than making our city safe again.  And for any candidate that would jeopardize the personal or emotional safety of another candidate to attempt to solidify their “win,”  who would target family members or intimidate City residents, apparently has not taken this pure purpose to heart, and clearly is not who we need to lead our City to safety.
Lana M. Asuncion-Bates, Ed.D., NCSP is the wife of Ivan Bates, Esquire, Candidate for Baltimore City State’s Attorney in this June’s primary election.