In a decision that will reorder the Maryland political world like few others, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) announced Thursday that he will step down from his leadership post after 33 years on the job – but remain in the Senate.
Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), who is just 36 years old, will take over the president’s gavel.
Miller, 76, broke the news to his Democratic colleagues in an emotional closed-door meeting Thursday morning in an office building named for him. After several days of intense jockeying, the senators then quickly anointed Ferguson – who only recently began campaigning for the president’s job – to succeed him.
“My mind is still strong, but my body is weak,” Miller said at an Annapolis news conference.
Miller has been suffering from cancer and a variety of other ailments for months.
“It’s a fulltime job,” Miller said. “It’s a statewide job. You need someone younger.”
In the run-up to the vote, Ferguson, the vice chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, and Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), the chairman of the Capital Budget Committee, were the final contenders, though other senators tried to round up support.
But even though Miller was pushing for Peters as recently as Tuesday, Ferguson quickly locked up the votes of his fellow Baltimore City senators along with several progressives and younger members.
Peters put Ferguson’s name up for nomination Thursday morning, and the caucus voted unanimously to support him. He will represent not only generational change from Miller, but geographical and ideological change as well.
“This is an incredibly humbling experience,” Ferguson said at the news conference.
Ferguson won’t officially become president until January, when the full Senate reconvenes, but with a unified Democratic caucus behind him – Democrats hold a 32-15 supermajority in the Senate chamber – his ascension is guaranteed.
Ferguson said he expected Miller to serve as a mentor “whether he wants to or not.”
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