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Government & Politics

Sen. Hough Steps Down as Minority Whip, as Political Moves Continue in District 4

Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Frederick County Sen. Michael R. Hough (R) announced Monday that he has stepped down as minority whip after one year in the leadership post.

Hough cited his intent to leave the General Assembly as the reason.

“Given that I am running for Frederick County Executive, I decided to step down as Senate Minority Whip to give someone who is running for re-election the opportunity to lead the caucus through the next session and into the 2022 elections,” the two-term senator said in a statement.

Carroll County Sen. Justin Ready (R), a regular ally of Hough’s, was elected by the Senate GOP caucus to the role as whip. Anne Arundel County Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R) was re-elected as minority leader for a second year.

“I congratulate my good friend Senator Justin Ready on his election as the Minority Whip and Senator Simonaire on his reelection as the Minority Leader,” Hough said in a statement. “I have full confidence in them to effectively lead our caucus next session.”

Hough’s decision to leave the legislature is one of many factors that could influence the representation of rural Frederick County in Annapolis after the 2022 elections, depending, in part, on how legislative district lines are ultimately drawn.

In addition to Hough’s open seat that’s likely to attract a contested Republican primary, Del. Daniel L. Cox (R) is running for governor, leaving open a delegate seat in District 4 as well.

Last week, Cox formally filed his candidacy for governor, naming as his running mate Gordana Schifanelli, an attorney from Queen Anne’s County who stirred controversy after the county’s former superintendent of schools called for better dialogue about racism.

When Hough first announced his county executive bid, Del. Jesse Pippy (R) announced he would run for Senate, which would have opened up a second House seat in District 4.

But Pippy recently withdrew his candidacy for Senate, saying at the same time that he hasn’t “made any final decisions about next year’s elections.”

Pippy, who is finishing up coursework for a law degree at the University of Maryland and has two children under 5 years old, said he withdrew from the race, at least temporarily, in an effort find more balance in his “personal, professional and public service.”

The first-term delegate said he made a promise to his wife to maintain a balance if he ran for public office and the “inside politics of who’s going to run for delegate and who’s going to run for Senate when we don’t even have the district lines” became too much to balance right now.

“It all just seemed very hypothetical … a bit much,” Pippy said in an interview. “…I decided I would take a step back from the politics for the moment, with five months until the filing deadline.”

Frederick County, according to recent Census figures, was the fastest-growing jurisdiction in Maryland over the last decade, and will see changes in legislative boundaries for the 2022 races.

After Pippy withdrew, another familiar face in Annapolis announced he would run for the Senate vacancy. Former Del. William Folden (R) formally filed his candidacy with the State Board of Elections last week.

Folden, who represented District 3B in the House of Delegates from 2015 to 2019 before losing in the 2018 general election to now-Del. Ken Kerr (D), had been laying the groundwork for a return to the House of Delegates, this time representing District 4.

Folden, a Frederick police officer, moved into the current District 4 boundary a couple of years ago.

“In light of recent shifts in our political landscape in Frederick County, I’ve decided to seek the District 4 Senate seat. …Having served you as State Delegate, I am convinced that I can do more, have more influence, and deliver on our District’s many needs as your Senator,” Folden wrote on Facebook.

In the post, Folden said he would focus on lowering the fiscal burden of government on residents, expand economic opportunity and work to sustain agricultural heritage if elected.

He also referenced police reform efforts in the General Assembly.

“The past year and a half has been difficult on law enforcement professionals, but I am proud to stand with my family of blue as we continue to serve and protect our communities without fail, always remembering that we are a society founded in law and law and order must prevail!” he wrote.

The 2022 primary is June 28. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 22.

Hough said in an interview that he has told local Republicans he does not plan to make endorsements in a contested party primary.

On Monday, he said he looks forward to “strongly representing my constituents … in my last session as their Senator.”

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Sen. Hough Steps Down as Minority Whip, as Political Moves Continue in District 4