It may not be a “lifelong dream,” but Del. Dereck Davis Monday took an important step toward becoming the next state treasurer.
A joint House-Senate panel tasked with interviewing candidates to fill a vacancy created by Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted unanimously to recommend Davis over three others. The vote followed less than an hour of statements and questions to some candidates.
Davis was thought for some time to be a leading candidate for the position as rumors circulated that Treasurer Nancy Kopp might retire.
Davis told the panel Monday that he began asking himself why he might want to step into a role that oversees the state’s investments, bonds and holds one of three seats on the Board of Public Works.
“I can’t tell you it’s been a lifelong dream,” said Davis. “I won’t say that, but public service has been.”
Davis, 54, is a Prince George’s Democrat and chair of the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee. He is currently in his seventh term in the legislature.
“I am motivated by Maryland and all that it has to offer its citizens,” he said. “As I began thinking about the work of the Office of the Treasurer I knew that I wanted to continue to carry out the treasurer’s duty to protect and safeguard state funds at all times.”
Kopp, 77, announced in October that she would retire by the end of the year before her term ends in 2023. Kopp was elected to her first full term in February 2003. A year earlier, the legislature had tapped her to fill the remainder of the term of Richard Dixon.
Davis as treasurer could represent a change in how the Board of Public Works operates.
Since the election of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his bipartisan alliance with Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, some Democratic lawmakers grew impatient with Kopp’s quiet, less combative style. Some in the General Assembly wanted a more vocal counterbalance to Hogan and someone who could punch back at Franchot’s criticisms.
Davis told lawmakers he planned to work with other board members in a bipartisan fashion while also communicating “the will, the desire of the legislature.”
“I’ve always put the interest of Marylanders first and foremost,” Davis said. I’ve always tried to do what I thought was the right thing to do. That has gotten me in trouble from time to time, but I never focused on party. I never focused on partisanship.”
Davis has sometimes faced criticisms that he is not progressive enough. He almost successfully cobbled together a coalition that included House Republicans in his effort to succeed House Speaker Michael Busch.
But Davis, while professing bipartisan desires, acknowledged his constituency, especially as it relates to the Board of Public Works, would be the General Assembly.
“So, for me, the role there would be to know the wishes of my constituents, in this case the House and the Senate, and to advocate forcefully and effectively for the core principles and values that you all hold true and the vision that you have for Maryland,” said Davis. “My role is to be your voice.”
Maryland’s treasurer is elected by the General Assembly to a four-year term, according to the Maryland Constitution. Those same 188 lawmakers must elect a replacement in the case of a vacancy.
Democrats overwhelmingly control the state legislature, and the sheer size of the House of Delegates, which has three times more members than the Senate, typically factors into the election process, making Davis the odds-on favorite.
The joint panel of six Democrats and four Republicans charged with interviewing candidates voted 10-0 to recommend Davis to the House and Senate. A secret ballot vote to fill out Kopp’s current term, which expires in February 2023, is scheduled for the special session that will start Dec. 6.
The full General Assembly will be able to consider not only Davis but also the three other candidates — Jorge Cortez, a banker and financial analyst; former Baltimore City Del. John Douglass; and Joseph Zimmerman, secretary-treasurer of the Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission, who also previously served as director of finance for the Maryland Environmental Service.
Lawmakers can also write in candidates.