The practice of naming things after politicians who continue to serve in office is well established in Annapolis, but not everyone thinks it’s such a good idea. One Democratic lawmaker is willing to take on his own party – and his district-mate – in saying so out loud.
Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) was a conspicuous “no” vote recently on HB 4, the measure to name the new span connecting Maryland and Virginia the Gov. Harry W. Nice-Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge, appending the name of the long-serving chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to a bridge originally named for the state’s 50th governor.
“The optics are horrible,” Wilson told Maryland Matters. “I think there’s good intentions behind the bill, but I don’t believe we should ever name anything after anybody who is still sitting in office.”
Not only is Middleton (D-Charles) still serving, he’s a potential replacement for Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Howard), the retiring chairman of the influential Budget & Taxation Committee, and he’s been mentioned as a possible future Senate president.
Wilson was the only Democrat to oppose the measure. His vote was particularly eyebrow-raising because he and Middleton represent the same Southern Maryland district, the 28th.
Middleton said he respects Wilson’s views.
“His thoughts were legitimate,” he said. “He thinks that bridges and things ought not to be named after people while they’re alive. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I’m not going to hold that against him.”
Asked about their relationship, Middleton was more measured. “We work together OK.”
“He’s my delegate, I don’t want to get into any big brouhaha over it. I’m just honored that Del. [Sally Y.] Jameson (D-Charles) and the House felt good enough to name the bridge after me. I would just leave it at that,” Middleton said.
Wilson insists his vote against the bridge naming bill was philosophical, not personal. “I have no problems with my senator. I think he’s a great dude.”
Pointing out the window to the Miller Senate Office Building, named for the current presiding officer of the chamber, Wilson said: “Nobody ever compliments that building. Nobody ever [says], ‘Hey there’s a great idea.’ [Instead], they say, ‘look at y’all being self-serving.’ And I don’t think that’s the way it needs to be.”
The new span, expected to open in 2023, will replace the existing Nice Bridge, a 1940 relic that is over-run with traffic and considered unsafe. It carries U.S. 301 over the Potomac River, connecting Newburg, Md., with Dahlgren, on Virginia’s Northern Neck.
In January, Maryland Matters reported that the measure was drafted in part as payback against the Hogan administration, after an incident in which Christopher B. Shank, the governor’s chief legislative officer, called Middleton and asked him to leave a Hogan press event at which the new bridge project was announced.
HB 4 sailed through the Senate on Tuesday, 47-0. Last week the House of Delegates gave its approval, 102-35.
In January, Hogan communications director Douglass V. Mayer said the governor is more interested in getting the project, slated for a 2020 groundbreaking, built — not “who… gets their name on a shiny little plaque.”
Wilson knows his “no” vote won’t endear him to his colleagues in either chamber, but he was determined to remain true to his beliefs.
“I thought it was a non-starter. I thought it was a way from Sally to Mac [to say] ‘thank you for all your service,’ and we’d be like ‘OK’ and put it in a drawer. So I’m very shocked. I’m very shocked. Because I think that we’re better than that.”