One Night, Two Rooms, Two Visions for the Future of the State

Lawmakers from District 20 meet their constituents Monday night. Left to right: Sen. William C. Smith Jr., Dels. Jheanelle K. Wilkins, David Moon and Lourig Charkoudian. Photo by Josh Kurtz

In one room of the House office building in Annapolis Monday night, lawmakers were talking to their constituents about guns, abortion, and legalizing marijuana.

Next door, another set of lawmakers were talking to their constituents about guns, abortion, and legalizing marijuana.

But the conversations couldn’t have been more different.

In one of the rooms, the four Republicans who represent District 5 in Carroll County were welcoming their constituents to Annapolis with a dinner that included barbecue sandwiches and bacon-wrapped jalapenos. In the next room, the four Democrats who represent District 20 in Montgomery County were welcoming their constituents to Annapolis with a dinner that included vegetarian lasagna and heaping bowls of salad.

“It would have been interesting to have us all cross over,” 5th District Sen. Justin Ready (R) mused on the Senate floor later.

District 5, which takes in most of Carroll County, is one of the most conservative districts in the state. It gave Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) 85.6 percent of the vote in 2018. That may explain why Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R), who could be a candidate for governor in 2022, was on hand, pressing the flesh.

District 20, which takes in “the People’s Republic of Takoma Park” and most of inside-the-Beltway Silver Spring, is one of the most liberal districts in the state. It gave Hogan’s challenger, former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous (D), 71.3 percent of the vote in 2018. That may explain why Rutherford hurried by on his way out of the building.

As fate would have it, Monday was the third straight President’s Day that the two districts’ delegations held their annual receptions in the same corridor of the House building.

“It shows you how Annapolis works so well together,” Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery) – who does not represent District 20 – observed as he walked down the hallway.

Del. Susan Krebs at the District 5 legislative reception in Annapolis Monday night. Photo by Josh Kurtz

And in fact, the two districts do have something in common: All of District 20 and a portion of District 5 are represented in Congress by hyper-liberal U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) – who lives in Takoma Park but made a beeline for the District 5 reception, to the befuddlement of his neighbors, when he visited Annapolis two President’s Days ago.

Despite that commonality, the districts’ two different worldviews were on vivid display Monday night.

In the 5th District reception, Ready and Dels. Susan Krebs (R), April Rose (R) and Haven Shoemaker (R) charted the liberal drift of the legislative session so far.

“We’re going to have a wild ride,” Rose said.

Shoemaker suggested that the House is “backing the Brink’s truck up to the teachers’ union.” He lamented “gun grabbing legislation” and said his colleagues have introduced “four different sanctuary bills.”

“It’s not going to be an easy year down here for us in Annapolis,” Shoemaker told the District 5 constituents. “The bottom line is, I hope you all are going to pray for us.”

He also advised: “Hold on to your wallets.”

Next door, Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D) and Dels. Lorig Charkoudian (D), David Moon (D) and Jheannelle K. Wilkins (D) outlined their legislative work. When Moon mentioned Hogan’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, the crowd booed. When Smith said, “I think we are honestly a year or two away from taking a look at passing legalization [of marijuana] here in Maryland,” the crowd cheered.

At the District 20 reception, some of the attendees were handing out literature about gun control bills. Others were clutching signs from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Still others wore red T-shirts from Case de Maryland, the immigrant rights group.

Moon, who has worked on what he called “a treaty” with lawmakers from Virginia and Washington, D.C., to deny government funding for any new football stadium for the Washington Redskins, also drew cheers when he noted that Hogan recently backed away from any possible stadium deal.

But like his conservative colleagues next door, he too sounded a note of caution.

“It’s a partial victory,” he said. “But sleep with your eyes open.”

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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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