Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) on Friday made a strong geographic and racial appeal for Dereck E. Davis’ bid to become the next speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Speaking to reporters at a county elementary school, Alsobrooks said Davis, the chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, was “well prepared” to lead the chamber following the death Sunday of long-serving Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
“As the leader of Prince George’s County, I think it would be ideal to have — as a presiding officer — a person who represents Prince George’s County,” she said. “As you know, we do not have in statewide leadership a single Prince Georgian, nor do we have an African-American.”
She described Davis as “fair-minded and respected, able to listen to both sides.” In an interview she called him “very intelligent… with a nimble mind. A thinker.”
Davis has said little publicly about his desire to succeed Busch, who served as speaker for 17 years. Neither has the other presumed frontrunner, Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore), the chair of the Appropriations Committee.
But there is widespread agreement in the political community that McIntosh is close to sewing up the majority of the House Democratic Caucus. A State House Democratic insider told Maryland Matters that McIntosh has 49 commitments, compared to 22 for Davis. In a caucus with 98 members, 50 votes would be needed to attain the majority.
The Washington Post reported late Friday that McIntosh has 51 commitments from Democrats.
Republicans could also be a factor in the outcome, because the full House selects the speaker. The House GOP Caucus has 42 members.
While there has been activity behind the scenes, the politicking has been mostly hidden from view out of respect for Busch, whose funeral has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that she intends to seek the post.
“I’ve been speaker pro tem for the last 16 years,” she told the paper. “In terms of my style, I’m fair to everybody and I know when I need to be firm. I would be the best person to continue Speaker Michael Busch’s legacy.”
Jones said she decided to make her candidacy public out of concern her colleagues might view the race as a two-person contest.
“The message was getting out that, ‘Adrienne is not interested,’” Jones said. “I’m making my calls now so that people know that I am definitely interested.”
It appears certain that the next speaker will make history. If McIntosh or Jones prevail, it will mark the first time a woman has become leader of the House. Davis or Jones would be the first African-American to hold the post. McIntosh would be the first openly gay person to lead the chamber.
Jones’ candidacy received a boost on Friday when The Afro newspaper endorsed her in a front-page editorial.
Under a large color photo of the lawmaker and a banner headline reading “It’s Time!” the editorial noted that Jones, who served as speaker pro team for 16 years, led the chamber for a long stretch at the end of this year’s session as Busch faced health challenges.
“At the end of the volatile 2019 Maryland General Assembly, Speaker Jones proved she is more than capable of leading the Maryland House of Delegates under difficult circumstances,” The Afro said.
“During her years as a Delegate, she has worked to make the State of Maryland a better place to live and work. Although there are others worthy of taking the mantle of Speaker, we believe Jones is the best person at this pivotal time to lead Maryland’s House.”
Jones’ candidacy undoubtedly complicates the contest for the others, as now there are two women, two persons of color and two candidates from the Baltimore area.
In an interview, Alsobrooks said she is willing to make calls on Davis’ behalf but has not done so yet. In his day job, Davis is deputy director of community relations for the Prince George’s County government.
“I would be happy to assist him in talking to people,” she said. “I think Dereck would be a wonderful speaker. This is a person who listens more than he talks. This is a rare quality in public service.”