On the eve of an historic election in the Maryland House of Delegates, one of the top candidates says she believes she has the votes to become the first woman and openly gay leader of the chamber.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, laid out her agenda if she is elected speaker of the House during a Tuesday conference call with reporters. During that call, which sounded at times like a campaign appearance, McIntosh expressed confidence about her chances Wednesday and warned of the damage that could come to the Democratic Party if there is a bruising floor fight for the job.
“I feel like it’s mine,” McIntosh said, though she acknowledged. “It’s a close race.”
McIntosh is locked in a battle with Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.
The contest to become speaker, typically an internal political matter, continues to be unusually public.
The nearly 30-minute call with reporters at times sounded like a campaign whistle stop featuring other delegates lavishing praise on their champion. McIntosh spoke of her agenda, should she be elected, vowing to become the “education speaker” and to find funding for Kirwan Commission education recommendations and billions in school construction for the coming session. She also vowed to continue to expand the party’s seats in Annapolis, raising money and campaigning in future elections — as she did in 2018 —for Democrats.
By rule, the entire House of Delegates selects the leader of the House. In practice, it is the majority party — in this case the Democrats — that typically decides. A simple majority is needed to win — as many as 71 votes if all 140 members currently in the House attend the special session.
One seat will be vacant for the session, that of the late House Speaker Michael Busch, who died earlier in April.
Davis Monday received the support of a majority of the 45-member Legislative Black Caucus, but more than a dozen have pledged support to McIntosh. Should Davis win, he would be the first black leader in the history of the House.
During the call, McIntosh told reporters she believes she has roughly 60 or so members of the 98-member Democratic Caucus pledged to her.
The 42-member Republican caucus is expected to announce who it will support in a press conference following a Wednesday morning caucus meeting. Del. Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel and House Minority leader, said all of the House Republicans are expected to attend the special session and are committed to voting as a bloc for a single candidate.
McIntosh called on Davis and his supporters to settle the issue when the Democratic caucus meets Wednesday morning. During her teleconference with reporters, she raised questions about any effort to become speaker that came “on the backs of Republicans.”
“Let’s be very clear, I’m going to win as speaker with Democratic votes only. I do not want to win with Republican votes,” said McIntosh.
“I’m not going to try to overturn the Democratic caucus support of him would he receive it,” she said, adding that a floor fight to overturn a caucus could damage the Democratic Party.
“It will be contentious,” said McIntosh. “It will be contentious and again I point you to other states where this has happened and it’s taken years to recover. I hope, and many, many hope — a majority hope — that this is settled in the Democratic caucus and we walk out together in unity.”