Baltimore City Democrats on Thursday night deadlocked over who should fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates from the 41st District.
The eight members of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee from the 41st District decided to forward two names to Gov. Wes Moore (D) for consideration for the House seat: former Del. Angela C. Gibson (D), who represented the district in Annapolis as an appointee from 2017 to 2019, and Malcolm P. Ruff, a lawyer who is colleague and protégé of prominent civil rights attorney Billy Murphy.
As a result of the committee’s 4-4 vote, Moore will have the ultimate say over who replaces former Del. Tony Bridges (D), who resigned last month to join Moore’s administration.
“We had a … number of incredible candidates,” said Karenthia Barber, a former city Democratic chair who presided over the vote because the current party chair, Tammy Stinnett, was one of the District 41 representatives voting on Bridges’ replacement.
In all, eight applicants made their case to the District 41 central committee members during two hours of virtual interviews Thursday night. But while several candidates were impressive, it quickly became apparent that the vote would become a choice between two candidates of different generations who clearly had great familiarity with the Northwest Baltimore district and all the relevant political players.
Gibson, 74, portrayed herself as a steady hand who has already held the job and is planning to be a full-time lawmaker if selected.
“I’m ready from day one to be your servant leader,” she said. “I will be a full-time representative, accountable to all the residents of the 41st.”
Gibson, a 30-year veteran of city government, was selected in 2017 to fill a vacancy in the House when long-serving Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D) was elevated to serve in the Senate to replace Sen. Lisa Gladden (D), who resigned for health reasons.
Ruff, 39, who has won high-profile police brutality cases alongside Murphy, said he has been dreaming of becoming a legislator for much of his life, and spent the past two General Assembly sessions testifying on behalf of criminal justice reform bills.
“I believe I could be the strongest voice, the strongest advocate and the strongest collaborator for the district,” he said.
After the candidates made their pitches, the eight central committee members from the 41st District deliberated in private for about 10 minutes and then came back on camera to cast their votes. Three members, including Baltimore City Councilmember Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D), cast their ballots for Gibson, but they appeared at first to be outnumbered, 4-3, until someone pointed out that Gibson, who is a member of the central committee, was also entitled to a vote, even though she hadn’t been part of the panel that had interviewed the candidates. That created the deadlock.
Barber informed her central committee colleagues after the first round of voting that if they could not agree on a nominee to replace Bridges after three ballots, both names would be forwarded to Moore. After the second round of voting, and the same roll call as the first round, the central committee members decided to send both Ruff’s and Gibson’s names to Moore.
Whomever Moore selects for the House vacancy will represent the 41st District along with Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg (D), the legislature’s longest-serving member, and Del. Dalya Attar (D), who was elected in 2018.