To fill House vacancy, Montgomery Democrats pick university professor and former Obama White House official
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee on Tuesday night nominated Sarah Siddiqui Wolek for a vacancy to serve in the House of Delegates representing Bethesda-based District 16.
Wolek prevailed over a crowded field that included a former state lawmaker, a mayor, and several policy experts and political insiders. She was nominated to replace Ariana Kelly (D), who was elevated to the state Senate earlier this month following a vacancy there. Kelly had served in the House since 2011.
Eighteen people sought to replace her through the central committee’s application process. Wolek won after three rounds of balloting shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Saman Qadeer Ahmad, chair of the central committee, said a letter of nomination would be sent to Gov. Wes Moore (D) later Tuesday night. The governor has 15 days to make the appointment to the seat.
Wolek is a professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and is the founding director of the university’s Intentional Life Lab, which seeks to help students develop meaningful life and career paths while managing well-being and mental health.
She worked in the federal government for more than a decade, including posts at the U.S. Treasury Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the White House Office of Management and Budget. She left the White House shortly after the 2016 election.
Wolek highlighted her family’s roots during the interview process. She described herself as as a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim woman married to a Catholic Polish immigrant raising three children who attend county public schools.
Wolek grew up in Montgomery County, in neighboring District 15, and spent part of her childhood in Pakistan. Her family returned to the U.S. so a younger sibling could attend special education programs in Montgomery County.
Wolek said during the interview process that she would champion special education students and their families in Annapolis. She also wants to bring a focus to issues of mental health and well-being, pathways to home ownership, and reimagining education for a new economy to her work as a delegate.
Wolek will join House Majority Leader Marc Korman and Del. Sara Love in representing the district in the House of Delegates.
Including Kelly, Moore has already filled four vacancies in the General Assembly, all resulting from his decision to tap state lawmakers for key posts in his administration: Then-Del. Alonzo Washington (D) was appointed to replace longtime Prince George’s County state Sen. Paul Pinsky (D) after Pinsky was named director of the Maryland Energy Administration. Ashanti Martinez (D) was then appointed to replace Washington in the House.
Kelly replaced former Sen. Susan Lee (D), who has become Secretary of State in the Moore administration. And in Montgomery County’s District 14, Bernice Mireku-North (D) was appointed to the House early this year after Moore tapped Eric Luedtke, who had been the House majority leader in Annapolis, to become his chief legislative officer.
More legislative vacancies are in the offing: Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) resigned Tuesday after almost 16 years in the House to become assistant secretary at the Maryland Department of Human Services. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee announced Tuesday that the application process for that vacancy will kick off Wednesday, with plans to fill the seat by April 18.
There could be other vacancies on the horizon in the state House and Senate as Moore continues to build his administration.
A bill that would require special elections for legislative vacancies in the first two years of the four-year legislative term appears to be stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee. It was introduced by Del. Linda Foley (D-Montgomery) — who ironically is a former chair of the county Democratic Central Committee who was appointed to her seat to a fill a vacancy in late 2021.