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Political notes: Black Caucus backs Tenn. lawmakers, Gibson honored in Senate, Matt Gaetz is coming, and more

Rep. Justin Jones, left, and Justin Pearson, right, were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives. Tennessee Lookout photo by John Partipilo.

Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus stood in solidarity Friday with two Black freshmen lawmakers who were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives earlier this week.

Del. Jheanelle K. Wilkins (D-Montgomery) addressed the issue during an afternoon meeting in the House of Delegates chamber.

“Colleagues, sometimes there are actions that take place in other states that really impact us here and all across the country. And I rise because the members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland are stunned — stunned — by the actions that have taken place in Tennessee,” Wilkins said. “And on behalf of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, I rise to stand with our colleagues at Tennessee. I rise to remind us of how delicate the fabric of society is, and how we must always work to defend and protect each other and ensure that there’s fairness and due process for everyone.”

Across the country, reaction to the expulsion of the Democratic lawmakers has been swift.

Vice President Kamala Harris quickly scheduled a trip to Nashville to meet with the men, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white woman who was spared from ouster by one vote.

State and national faith leaders announced a “Moral Monday” rally, calling on thousands of clergy across the nation to come to Nashville on April 17 and join the former lawmakers’ fight.

Denunciations came from political groups across the country.

“The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland stands firmly with our colleagues in Tennessee and Black Caucuses throughout the country to condemn the expulsion of two Black members of the Tennessee House of Representatives who exercised our country’s founding principles of free speech and peaceful protest,” the Maryland caucus said in a statement. “The expulsion of two Black members while sparing a white member demonstrates the deep-seated racism behind these actions and we demand the reinstatement of Representative Justin Jones and Representative Justin Pearson. Black representatives have the right to stand up and speak out loudly and boldly on behalf of our constituents without persecution.”

The 65-member Maryland caucus said they feared that the “unprecedented expulsion creates a chilling effect in state legislatures across the country and is a stain on American democracy.

“We stand ready to support our colleagues in Tennessee and protect the rights of Black legislators and our constituents across the country,” the statement concluded.

Senators honor Gibson’s long career

Larry S. Gibson, civil rights activist, law professor and political consultant known for his insistence on the use of sound trucks and a plethora of lawn signs in election campaigns, was honored Friday by the Maryland Senate with a First Citizen Award for his lifetime of work.

Gibson, 81, was summoned from his Baltimore home to the State House not knowing he was to receive the medal, only to be surprised upon arrival that he was being honored.

“This is a delightful event for me. Thank you very much,” he said.

Larry S. Gibson received a First Citizen Award from the Maryland Senate on Friday. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“One thing that comes from teaching at the same school for 49 years … and it being a law school, you end up with many former students who are lawyers, but also many former students who are lawmakers,” Gibson said, referring to his tenure at what is now known as the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

“I’m ready to hold class,” he told the Senate, drawing a laugh.

Gibson then specifically called out Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), the presiding officer’s chief of staff, Sally McMillan Robb, and Sen. Charles E. Sydnor III (D-Baltimore County) as his former students, saying, “I am delighted and proud every day” by their work.

Ferguson returned to the rostrum smiling.

“Little piece of trivia: Professor Gibson was also the law professor who gave me my lowest grade in law school,” he said. “Take a guess what class … it was.”

“Election law!” Ferguson said to an amused chamber.

Gibson became active in politics in the late 1960s, advocating for Black candidates in Baltimore City, though his reach soon expanded across the state and beyond. He is perhaps best known as political adviser and padrone to former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who served three terms in City Hall from 1987 to 1999.

Always fascinated with former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was born in Baltimore, Gibson wrote a book on the former NAACP lawyer called “Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice,” published in 2012.

Elaine Rice Bachmann, the Maryland state archivist, made the formal presentation on the Senate rostrum, after reading a short biography.

The award to Gibson was postponed last month because of the death of his wife, Diana L. Gibson, three weeks ago.

“This award today just caps it all off,” Gibson said at the conclusion of his brief remarks. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The Senate president, in concert with the Maryland archivist, presents the award annually to “Marylanders who have been dedicated and effective participants in the process of making government work for the benefit of all,” the Archives website states. The other recipients this year were former Senators Paul Pinsky and Adelaide “Addie” Eckardt.


U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the most controversial members of Congress, is coming to Maryland.

The Ultra-MAGA congressman is scheduled to headline the St. Mary’s County Republican Central Committee’s annual Lincoln/Reagan dinner on June 3. It’ll happen at the St. Mary’s Elk’s Lodge #2092 in California. The central committee promises more details soon.

A new app

Just in time for Sine Die: A new app that enables Marylanders to follow General Assembly activities, learn about and contact their lawmakers, and become more involved in the political process.

It’s a variation on the old member facebooks that several iterations of communications companies printed, which later moved online but have since been continued.

The app, which is currently available for I-Phones and should be for Androids soon, has been developed by Capitol Strategies LLC, the Annapolis lobbying firm, with an assist from V-Empower Inc., a company led by Bowie resident Shukoor Ahmed, which has developed technology over the past two decades to help citizens contact their legislators.

The app, for those with I-Phones, can be accessed here.

Tennessee Lookout reporter Anita Wadhwani contributed to this report. 


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Political notes: Black Caucus backs Tenn. lawmakers, Gibson honored in Senate, Matt Gaetz is coming, and more