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Maryland Senate Republicans choose Hershey as new leader

Sen. Steve Hershey will become the top Republican in the state Senate. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

A smaller Republican Senate caucus will have a new top leader when the 2023 session opens in January.

Sen. Steve Hershey, R-Upper Shore, will take over leading the minority party as the state returns to one-party control in both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. Sen. Justin Ready will continue as minority whip, the party’s No. 2 leader.

“The next four years will look very different; however, we are collectively committed to continuing our legacy of ‘punching above our weight’ and holding the majority party accountable to the citizens of Maryland,” Ready and Hershey said in a joint statement.

Sen. Justin Ready will retain his job as the Senate minority whip when lawmakers gather for the 2023 session. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Hershey has served nine years in the Senate, including five as Senate minority whip. He replaces Sen. Bryan Simonaire as the party’s top leader in the chamber.

Ready is a veteran of the legislature with two terms in the Senate and another in the House. Ready served the last two sessions as the Senate minority whip under Simonaire.

House and Senate Republicans were already outnumbered by a veto-proof majority of Democrats in each chamber.

This year, following redistricting and a tough year for the party behind Dan Cox, an election denier and Trump supporter who unsuccessfully ran for governor, Senate Republicans lost two seats, reducing their ranks to 13.

It’s the second election in the last four years in which the party lost seats.

In 2018, Senate Republicans and Gov. Larry Hogan held hopes of claiming enough seats to break the Democrats ability to override a veto. The numbers would also added an ability to block a procedural vote that could end a minority party filibuster.

Those hopes evaporated as a strong anti-Trump backlash drove Democrats to the polls. A number of down-ballot Republicans in the Senate and other races lost their seats even as Hogan easily surged to become just the second two-term Republican governor in Maryland.

Republicans in the Senate will find fewer Democratic allies as the chamber becomes more progressive and the governor’s mansion moves back to the control of the majority party when Gov.-elect Wes Moore is sworn in on Jan. 18.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated the positions to be held by Hershey and Ready.)