Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) sought to retake momentum in the race for speaker of the House on Tuesday, saying she has the votes needed to win.
She issued a caution to Democratic colleagues tempted to partner with Republican lawmakers, saying that doing so would be “very damaging” to the state Democratic Party and its agenda.
McIntosh made her comments in a conference call with reporters during which she was joined by a diverse group of legislative colleagues from around the state.
McIntosh, the House Appropriations chair, is vying with Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) to succeed the late Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). Davis has left open the possibility he will partner with GOP lawmakers, to propel him to victory, a scenario that McIntosh repeatedly scorned.
Republicans have 42 seats in the 140-member chamber (Busch’s seat is currently vacant).
“Winning an election with a majority of Republicans against the will of the Democratic Caucus, I think that is very troublesome,” she said. “I will point you to New York and other states where this has happened, where policy has been disrupted, elections were disrupted, and the Democratic Caucus was never able to find itself coming back together again for some time. We don’t want that to happen in Maryland.”
Both camps have claimed tallies showing them ahead — as is common in such races. Just as Davis and his supporters expressed confidence during an Annapolis news conference on Monday, McIntosh did so on Tuesday.
“I know I have the votes in caucus,” she said. “And I know that there are a number of members who may be supporting Chairman Davis who will not vote to overturn the Democratic Caucus selection on the floor. So that means I’ve got it.”
The Democratic Caucus will meet Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., two hours before the special session, to cast ballots. It would take 71 of 98 Democrats to seal the deal there.
Davis supporters in the Legislative Black Caucus claim to approximately 30 votes willing to support him on the floor even if he loses in the Democratic caucus. If Republicans vote in unison, as Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) promised again on Tuesday, the Prince Georgian would then have a viable path to the speakership.
Despite her bravado, McIntosh conceded that she has been reaching out to Kipke and other Republicans this week, but she denied it was an attempt to weaken Davis’ apparent hold on the group.
It was “just to remind him that I’ve chaired two committees over the last 20 years, and on those committees I treated Republican members with an open door policy, with respect, if I could help them be the best delegates they could be.
“And that my leadership as speaker will be the same.”
Davis called such outreach befuddling.
“If we’re saying only the Democratic Caucus should be making this decision, then there’s no reason to call any of the Republicans on this matter,” he said. “I think it’s a little late for any courtesy calls with one or two days to go. … especially since [she’s claiming] the race is sewn up.”
Davis also rejected McIntosh’s claims the Democratic Party would suffer a blow if he cobbles together a win with votes from both parties.
“That’s a convenient argument. That’s all that is,” he said. “The bottom line is it’s not how you win a race. It’s how you govern. And the way I would lead or govern is that everybody has a seat at the table.”
A former Baltimore school teacher before entering politics, McIntosh told reporters that she wants to be “the education speaker.”
She said House Bill 1 in next year’s session would fund the Kirwan Commission recommendations for improving classroom education, and HB 2 would provide for increased school construction.
She then pledged support for a range of issues designed to appeal to the diverse House Democratic Caucus — including “economic justice,” help for middle-class families with children, and criminal justice reform. In addition, she took Davis to task for failing to advance measure to expand parental leave benefits.
Davis countered by noting his support for earned sick leave, organ donation, unpaid family medical leave and other issues.
McIntosh called it “very unfortunate” that Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s), the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, made a caustic reference to her being “a white lesbian” during a closed-door meeting in early April.
Although Barnes has repeatedly denied making the remark, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel), who spoke during the conference call, confirmed the incident.
“I was there,” she said. “I was in the meeting. It was said.”
“This is a reason we need to come together as Democrats and unite,” McIntosh said. “No name-calling should be allowed. No name-calling will be allowed under Speaker McIntosh.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” he said. “It’s so unfortunate that what should be a civil affair has really just spun out of control. Emotions have gotten out of hand. I agree with Chairman McIntosh that we are always treating one another with respect.”