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Government & Politics

House GOP to Pick New Leadership Team Next Week

Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

House Republicans plan to select their new leadership team next Tuesday, one day after the General Assembly session is set to adjourn.

Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) are planning to step down from their leadership posts after eight years. They are the longest-tenured Maryland House GOP leaders in the modern era.

The race to succeed Kipke and Szeliga is shaping up to be a two-slate affair; under House Republican rules, candidates for leader and whip run together as a ticket.

One slate features Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) as the candidate for minority leader with Del. Christopher T. Adams (R-Lower Shore) as the candidate for whip; the other is headed by Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s) as the candidate for leader and Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) as the candidate for whip.

The lineups could, theoretically, change, because candidates do not formally present themselves until the 43-member caucus meeting begins. But both Buckel and Morgan confirmed that they plan to run — and that they had once discussed the possibility of teaming up.

Buckel, an attorney who was elected to the House in 2014, noted that the pace of change in the General Assembly has accelerated after years of stability, and said he wants to be part of charting the future course of both the institution and the Republican caucus.

“As that transition occurs, I’d like to be part of it,” he said.

While praising the tenure of Kipke and Szeliga, Buckel said Republicans must become more aggressive about promoting their agenda.

“After being here seven years, I’ve developed a lot of interest and respect in the process,” he said. “I think as Republicans in the House of Delegates, we can do more.”

Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

In a chamber with a Democratic supermajority, House Republicans are largely left on the sidelines when it comes to setting policy in Annapolis. While they have forcefully argued their positions on the House floor, they do not have the power of the filibuster, unlike their counterparts in the Senate, and, in contrast to the upper chamber, aren’t given much power on committees, either.

Buckel said that if elected, he plans to make a Republican push to bring single-member districts to the House of Delegates a top priority in the short term. He served on a redistricting reform commission convened by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) that met from 2015 to 2018.

Buckel said he believes he has enough commitments to prevail, but conceded that in a secret ballot, anything is possible.

Morgan, a Realtor who also joined the House in 2015, said Thursday he did not want to comment about the caucus election until after the meeting next week.

“We’ll see what happens then,” he said.

While the House Republican Caucus is uniformly conservative nowadays, lawmakers in both parties see the Buckel-Adams ticket as somewhat more moderate temperamentally than Morgan and Fisher, who enjoy a partisan scrum. Buckel and Adams represent the geographic poles of the state — far Western Maryland and the Lower Shore — while Morgan and Fisher represent Southern Maryland districts that are separated by the Patuxent River.

Kipke and Szeliga in mid-January announced their intention to step down sometime after this year’s legislative session ended.

Kipke, chairman of the exploratory committee for Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jessica Haire (R), who is contemplating a run for county executive, said at the time that he wanted to focus on Anne Arundel elections heading into this political cycle. Szeliga said she would focus on electing more conservative women in Maryland. Neither indicated whether they plan to seek re-election in 2022.

Senate Republicans selected a new leadership team last fall: Minority Leader Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) and Minority Whip Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick). And of course, House and Senate Democrats are under relatively new management as well.

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Editor’s Note: This story was updated to state that Dels. Nicholaus R. Kipke and Kathy Szeliga held their leadership positions for eight years. 


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House GOP to Pick New Leadership Team Next Week