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Government & Politics

Mireku-North nominated to replace Luedtke in House of Delegates

District 14 lawmakers Del. Anne Kaiser (D), far left, Del. Pamela Queen (D), center left, and Sen. Craig Zucker (D), posed for a photo Tuesday evening with Bernice Mireku-North, who was nominated by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee to fill a vacant seat for the district in the House of Delegates. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted Tuesday evening to send a new delegate to Annapolis for the General Assembly session that begins next Wednesday.

Bernice Mireku-North, an attorney and criminal justice reformer, was supported by 14 members of the committee after two rounds of voting during an emergency meeting to choose a replacement for Del. Eric Luedtke.

Luedtke, the former House majority leader, is leaving his District 14 post after 12 years to work as chief legislative officer for Gov.-elect Wes Moore’s incoming administration.

County Democratic officials planned to forward Mireku-North’s nomination to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who will make the appointment to the vacant position, overnight.

Mireku-North, who earlier this year unsuccessfully sought to unseat Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy in the Democratic primary, was one of 10 candidates to participate in a public interview process with the central committee on Tuesday night.

She was one of four candidates to receive support in a first round of voting by committee members and garnered majority support on a second ballot.

Other candidates to get votes in the final round were Jodi Finkelstein, executive director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women and a 2010 candidate for the District 14 seat, who received six votes, and Matt Post, a former student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, who received four votes.

Tom Smith, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in District 14 this year, received one vote in the initial round of voting.

Although Tuesday’s meeting started as a joint session on Zoom and in person, the virtual stream was cut short about 2 1/2 hours in after disrupters crashed the meeting, displaying pornography and antisemitic imagery. After a brief recess, the committee interviews, candidate closing statements and vote continued in person, with some committee members joining over the phone, but was no longer streamed online.

Saman Qadeer Ahmad, chair of the central committee, said multiple accounts were able to disrupt the virtual meeting, despite security efforts that required attendees to provide their names, addresses and other information. When the disruptive accounts couldn’t be quickly contained, the decision was made to take the meeting offline, she said.

A full recording is expected to be posted later for the public.

Soon after that disruption, another occurred when one of the 10 candidates, Doug Terry, removed his name from consideration for the post. Terry interrupted the meeting and alleged that the committee’s process was unfair after one member told Terry during break that he did not plan to vote for him, according to reporting from Bethesda Beat.

After the meeting, Mireku-North was flooded with admirers and overcome with emotion.

“I am elated, overjoyed, and just humbled at the opportunity to be in this process. I was with nine other incredible members of the district who all had different things to bring,” Mireku-North said.

Mireku-North, an assistant state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County for six years before leaving for private practice in 2015, said she hopes to join the Judiciary Committee in Annapolis, though she’s happy to serve on any panel.

She joins other members of the District 14 delegation, who were on hand for Tuesday’s vote: Sen. Craig Zucker (D), Del. Anne Kaiser (D) and Del. Pamela Queen (D). The district includes eastern stretches of Montgomery County, including parts of Damascus, Olney and Burtonsville.

“We congratulate Bernice Mireku-North as the newest member of the District 14 Team. Her work in criminal justice and law will be a tremendous asset. We look forward to working collaboratively with her on behalf of our district,” the incumbent lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Mireku-North celebrated her appointment Tuesday night with her husband, who was on hand at the meeting, and said she was looking forward to sharing the news with her 6-year-old daughter and parents, who immigrated from Ghana.

“I’m just hoping to make them proud,” she said. “To show that their sacrifice in Montgomery County paid off.”