A Dozen House Freshmen to Watch

Del.-elect Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City)

We once heard the Texas House of Representatives described this way: 3 percent geniuses, 3 percent crooks, and 94 percent wondering what’s for lunch.

It’s easy to make the argument that the same ratio applies, roughly, with the Maryland House of Delegates.

With that in mind, it’s a little early to figure out how the freshman class of the House will shake out. There are 44 incoming members, out of 141 seats – smaller than the class of newbies four years ago, which was more than 50 strong.

We’re sure several freshmen will distinguish themselves in 2019 – though it’s far harder for House frosh to stand out than it is for freshman senators. Here are our picks for the dozen freshmen to watch, in alphabetical order:

Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery): Anyone who’s young, Afro-Latino and openly gay is immediately intriguing. So is the fact that he’s an unabashed progressive and former union organizer who was unafraid to call out the incumbents in his district when they did not support him in the Democratic primary last year.

J. Sandra Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel): Former Democratic Central Committee member and attorney seems thoughtful, likable and hard working – and reflective of a rapidly changing district that includes Odenton, Ft. Meade, Severn, Maryland City and Linthicum.

Alice Cain (D-Anne Arundel): Former Capitol Hill staffer and education policy expert seems ready to make an impact right out of the chute, and she benefits from her alliance with House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who represents the same Annapolis-based district.

Dan Cox (R-Frederick): A conservative stalwart who previously ran for Congress, he’s destined to become a visible and vocal member of the GOP caucus’ right flank.

Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s): Military veteran who will walk a fine line between the increasingly liberal Democratic caucus and his increasingly conservative Southern Maryland district, which includes the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard): It’s always an interesting transition from political aide to principal. Feldmark got a good education as a former chief of staff to Howard County executive Ken Ulman (D) and a top aide to the County Council.

Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s): She’s got youth (she’s 30), energy, and some sterling mentors in Jolene and Glenn Ivey and former state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D). She’s the daughter of African and Indian immigrants, and has been conscientious about reaching out to her district’s substantial Latino population.

Sara Love (D-Montgomery): She has spent the last few years as the lobbyist for the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, so she knows her way around Annapolis – an asset for any freshman. She also has a long history working for NARAL Pro Choice America.

Nino Mangione (R-Baltimore County): Coming from a family of broadcasters, who own WCBM talk radio in Baltimore, expect Mangione to be a polished, articulate and savvy spokesman for conservative causes.

Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City): Lawyer and urban planner who has one of the most diverse and fascinating resumes of any incoming House member.

Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery): He’s a young man in a hurry: 28 years old, a two-time cancer survivor (including, most recently, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which Hogan had) and bursting with ideas and progressive energy. He’ll have a hard time complying with the unwritten Annapolis rule that freshmen should be seen and not heard.

Courtney Watson (D-Howard): One of the most seasoned of the freshmen, a former Howard County Council member who fell a few thousand votes short of being elected county executive in 2014. She moved on from that loss to head Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Maryland in 2016 and to lead volunteer recovery and relief efforts following the first grievous Ellicott City flood. She should put all that experience to good use.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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