Ex-Legislative Black Caucus chair sees lobbying opportunities for people of color

Jack Hogan//April 27, 2023

Ex-Legislative Black Caucus chair sees lobbying opportunities for people of color

By Jack Hogan

//April 27, 2023

“There are not enough people of color in this multimillion-dollar (lobbying) industry here in the state of Maryland,” says retired Del. Darryl Barnes, shown at a 2019 event. The Prince George’s Democrat has joined an Annapolis lobbying firm. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Former Maryland state Del. Darryl Barnes, the previous chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he hopes his transition into lobbying will open the door for more Black people to join the profession.

Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat who was first elected in 2014 and was reelected to a third term in an uncontested race in November, left the legislature after the conclusion of the 90-day lawmaking session in early April to join Evans & Associates, an Annapolis lobbying firm.

Barnes said he plans to establish a Black lobbying association in the state to recruit and mentor future lobbyists and focus on policies affecting the African American community.

“There are not enough people of color in this multimillion-dollar industry here in the state of Maryland,” Barnes said.

He said he could only recall seeing about 10 Black lobbyists in Annapolis during his eight years in the legislature.

Black representation in the General Assembly has increased in recent years, according to a recent report from the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. Barnes said that, with the change in the makeup of the legislature, broader discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion are especially important in state politics.

Barnes said lawmakers should always consider their “succession” plan, or what they’re going to do after their time in the legislature. Oftentimes, lawmakers — especially those who are people of color — may not think about their succession plan “until it’s too late,” he said.

Barnes hopes to be an example for others to follow.

“I would love to see that more people of color get into this profession,” he said.

By establishing a Black lobbying association, Barnes aims to create opportunities for more people of color to do just that.

Barnes said he could only remember one other African American lawmaker hired by a lobbying firm in recent years: longtime House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, who joined the Annapolis firm Capitol Strategies after retiring from the legislature in January.

Not every legislator is experienced enough to become a lobbyist, Branch said. Or, he said, they may choose not to join a lobbying firm after their time in the legislature.

Working as a lobbyist wasn’t something Branch sought out; he initially planned to “relax and retire.” But, given his 28 years of experience in the House of Delegates, firms started reaching out when he chose not to run again for his seat representing Baltimore City.

“It’s not that we’re being boycotted in any way,” Branch, a former chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said of African American lawmakers joining lobbying firms.

Branch wasn’t the only lawmaker with decades of experience to join a lobbying firm this year. Before the start of the session, former House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh, who represented Baltimore city in the House of Delegates for 30 years, joined Cornerstone Government Affairs, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with an office in Annapolis and a presence in 10 other states.

The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee is expected to select Barnes’s replacement at a meeting on Thursday of next week. Kent Roberson, who chairs the committee, is said to be the leading candidate, according to a report Monday from The Washington Post.

Under state law, Barnes cannot lobby lawmakers for the first year of his new gig, so he’ll start off working with county and municipal governments, lobbying for small businesses and lobbying outside of Maryland, he said.

Over his eight years in the House of Delegates, Barnes said he was most proud of his role in a $577 million settlement for a 15-year lawsuit in which alumni and supporters of Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities alleged that the state underfunded the institutions for years.

He also said that he and the Legislative Black Caucus were instrumental in the “fight for $15,” a reference to passing Gov. Wes Moore’s bill to increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour ahead of schedule.

“Being the chair of the Black Caucus for a record three terms, you just can’t imagine the things that I’ve been able to do, the impact that I’ve had,” Barnes said. “It just made me understand the legislature and put me in a good position to move on.”

His former colleagues echoed this. House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, called Barnes a valued and respected leader in the chamber.

“From sports betting to recreational cannabis, Del. Barnes has championed landmark policies centered on equity and economic opportunity for communities that have historically been left behind,” Jones said in a statement. “His service to Prince George’s County and to the state of Maryland will have a lasting impact that will be felt for generations to come.”

Sen. Melony Griffith, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and represents the same district Barnes used to, said the former delegate was well known for his “extraordinary leadership” of the Legislative Black Caucus and for his strong connection to community groups serving nonprofit and faith-based organizations and leading minority businesses.

In a statement, Griffith said, “I am confident he will continue to be visible and vocal on the issues that impact Marylanders.”


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