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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Terri Hill

Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard County). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Eight state legislators are running in congressional primaries in three separate districts this spring. Maryland Matters is checking in with all of them to discuss how they are balancing their legislative work with the imperative to be out on the campaign trail, along with the issues they are emphasizing in the General Assembly and on the campaign trail.

This is the third installment of our series. We’ll also have deeper looks into the congressional races and more information on other candidates as we get closer to the May 14 primaries.

Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard) occasionally finds herself addressing health needs as they pop up in the Maryland State House in between her legislative work.

“Last year was particularly busy on that front,” Hill told Maryland Matters. “We had a delegate who was having surgery and I went to his pre-op visit. One of the lobbyists had an injury or whatever…and I get called in to help. And then during the bill signings over the interim, we had someone pass out.”

Even at the start of the 2024 session, Hill was able to help Health and Government Operations Committee Chair Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel) overcome a pesky “tickle” in her throat, which made her cough and disrupted her comments during the committee’s organizational meeting.

Hill quietly got up from her seat in the committee, sat behind Peña-Melnyk, and touched a pressure point on her back. The chair’s coughing fit stopped and she was able to clear her voice.

“That actually helped. Wow — send me a bill,” Peña-Melnyk joked.

“She’s the doctor in the House,” she added.

Hill hopes that her medical and legislative experience will be a valued addition to the U.S. House of Representatives, as she is a candidate for Congress in 2024. The U.S. House currently has 17 physicians serving; only two are women.

Hill is a plastic surgeon and has been in private practice since 1991. She received her medical degree from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She also has a degree in bioelectric engineering from Harvard University.

Hill is running to represent Maryland’s 3rd District, in a crowded race that has 21 other Democrats vying for the congressional seat. She is one of five active state lawmakers competing in the May 14 primary.

She decided to run when current U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D) announced that he would not seek reelection in 2024. The 3rd District includes parts of Carroll and Anne Arundel counties, including Annapolis, and all of Howard County.

Hill previously ran for Congress in the 2020 Democratic primary in the 7th District, when it included most of Baltimore City and parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. While Hill finished well out of the running that year, she did wind up winning the Howard County portion of the district. The state’s congressional map has been redrawn since then.

Hill says that running a campaign while continuing her legislative duties has been a “full-time gig.”

“It’s juggling a little differently than the normal session…I feel an obligation to keep my commitments,” Hill said. “I don’t get to say to my constituency, ‘oh, by the way, I’ve decided to run for Congress. I’m not going to be able to be available to you.’”

Some of her legislative priorities she’s working on while campaigning include a bill that aims to protect Marylanders from issues surrounding Artificial Intelligence.

Hill has been pushing for legislation tackling AI programs for several years, but in 2024, the topic has become a priority issue for Gov. Wes Moore (D).

Hill is a co-sponsor of HB 1271, which would, in part, create a Governor’s Artificial Intelligence Subcabinet of the Governor’s Executive Council to develop policy and monitoring to ensure that state agencies use AI programs responsibly, among other provisions. She also sponsors HB 1174 which would create the Technology Advisory Commission to advise the AI Subcabinet proposed in HB 1271.

Both AI bills will receive their first committee hearings on Tuesday.

“When chat GPT came out and this became, you know, the sexy thing, then this piece of legislation kind of fit with what we’re already trying to do,” Hill said.

One of Hill’s other major bills this session would legalize medical aid-in-dying options for terminally-ill patients, but the highly sensitive issue appears hopelessly stalled in a Senate committee, lowering chances that the bill will pass this year.

Hill says that her experience in bioengineering, the medical field and her time as a legislator would benefit her as a U.S. representative if she is successful in her campaign.

She says that she’s able to “call a lie, ‘a lie.’”

“It’s not an alternative truth,” she said. “To support the integrity of science and to be willing to protect that, and to protect the people who are doing the work, I think that that’s an important part of going to Congress. Being in Congress and to be able to speak with some authority on those issues.”

She wants both the Maryland General Assembly and Congress to be more “forward thinking” when it comes to policy and hopes to bring that foresight into the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I think for the congressional race, that is one of the attributes that I bring. A lot of things that I look at are really from a root cause, and ‘how do we stop playing Whack-a-Mole?’” she said. “How do we actually change how we do things so that we don’t have to keep coming back and fixing things?”

Hill says it’s a challenge to balance being a lawmaker and running for Congress.

“I’m fortunate to have friends and family who don’t get too mad when I stopped showing up, and support me…and so that helps,” she said.

Hill added that her medical training might have helped prepare her to manage the stress.

“Maybe a residency program that had you working around the clock every third night on call was training that I hadn’t anticipated I’d still be using now,” she said.


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Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Terri Hill