By William J. Ford
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Del. Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County was unanimously chosen Wednesday as the state’s new House speaker during a special session among her colleagues.
Jones, who served as speaker pro tem to organize House sessions when the late House Speaker Michael Busch wasn’t in attendance, becomes the state’s first woman and African American to hold the position.
“I’m probably going to take a deep breath,” Jones, 64, said. “I know the Baltimore region best, [but] other areas [will] not be neglected because I’m a visual person. I like to go out in areas. … I’m visual.”
According to the legislation handbook, some of the duties of the speaker includes the appointment of committee leadership, assigns bills to committee and decides all points of order. However, the speaker must also maneuver political posturing which Busch received praise for from his Democratic colleagues and Republican members.
Before Jones received the 139 unanimous votes on the House floor, the House Democratic Caucus deliberated for more than four hours while considering two additional delegates, Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore City and Dereck E. Davis of Prince George’s County, for the position.
All three lawmakers have served in the House for more than 20 years.
McIntosh, a gay white woman, and Davis who’s Black, chair two prominent committees in the House. McIntosh leads Appropriations and Davis heads Economic Matters.
Either would have made history if selected as House speaker, as only white men have held the position.
Busch, 72, had held the position since 2003 and served as the longest House speaker in state history. He died April 7, one day before the last day of the legislative session, of pneumonia following complications from a 2017 liver transplant.
According to those familiar with Wednesday’s discussions, McIntosh received 50 votes and Davis 48.
The House Republicans voted as a bloc during its session, with all 42 votes for Davis.
The winner needed 71 votes to secure the position.
To ensure caucus unity and avoid the need for GOP votes, Jones was backed by all 98 Democrats, though more progressive members of the party sided with McIntosh.
“There were a number of people that wanted to support Chairman Davis … [and] join in with the Republican Caucus,” said a teary-eyed McIntosh minutes after the Democratic Caucus meeting. “I basically said, ‘We need to stay this room until we find someone who gets 71 votes. So we stayed in this room and did it. It was the best debate I ever heard. I’m proud.”
Davis, 51, praised Jones, who stepped out of the speaker race Friday to support him.
“‘House of Cards’ doesn’t have anything on us — talk about high drama,” Davis said from the House floor. “No one will ever forget the courage, the conviction and just the strength you showed those vital few weeks of this passed legislation session guiding us through … and performing admirably. [Less than] one week ago, you were willing to step aside for me and I’m honored to step aside for you now.”
House Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel County) said Jones treats every member with respect.
“She’s not a partisan person, which we really appreciate, being the minority in Maryland like Republicans are,” he said. “We look forward to working with her to solving the big problems that are in our in the state. We’re excited about her nomination and election today.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. also congratulated Jones.
“Del. Jones has been a key House leader on issues including education, health and environment for years and is a natural successor to Speaker Busch,” Miller said in a statement. “I congratulate her and look forward to continuing to partner with her in the future.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.