If the Senate Education Health and Environment Committee doesn’t meet again until next year’s legislative session, outgoing Chairwoman Sen. Joan Carter Conway will have a souvenir.
The Democrat, who represents Baltimore’s District 43, lost in the Democratic primary this spring and was given a send-off by her committee at a meeting on Thursday.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County), who is slated to become the committee’s next chairman, presented Conway with the gavel from the committee room and a bundle of red roses at the end of a hearing about campaign finance violations.
Conway said she was “totally surprised” by the gesture, but warned the committee that they’d still be seeing her.
“I will still be around. I will still be advocating. I will be doing the same thing that brought me here and that was to continue to advocate for the under-served and the disenfranchised,” Conway said. “That’s how I got to each political post in my life and I will continue to do that. And you do not have to be an elected official to do that.”
Conway, who has been a member of the Senate since 1997, said she appreciated the work of her committee members and the genuine debates they’d had over issues of importance to their constituents.
“I would hope that you would continue to fight wholeheartedly for your constituents and those individuals you represent,” she said.
Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore City and Baltimore County), who has been appointed as the committee’s vice chairwoman upon her likely return to the chamber in 2019, also recognized committee members who lost primaries and will not return: Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s and Calvert) and Sen. Barbara A. Robinson (D-Baltimore City).
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) recalled cosponsoring a bill with Robinson.
“You know, I had a good time doing that with you. It was pretty awesome,” Salling said. “When we did that bill together, I learned a lot from you. You have just a kind heart. You’re a very good person. And I want you to know that. And it was an honor to do that bill with you.”
Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) offered good wishes to Robinson, his former seatmate and fellow author, and he told Waugh not to be discouraged by his defeat.
“Lincoln lost several times, so don’t give up. You can come back,” Young said.
He told Conway that her influence will carry on with the committee, even after she’s gone.
Conway ended the parade of tributes by telling the committee that she’s “really in a better place.” Perhaps because she feels less encumbered.
“I don’t have any restraints at all now,” Conway said. “And most people say I had very little from Day 1.”