One week before the Maryland General Assembly's special session last month, in which lawmakers voted to add a sixth gambling casino in the state, Del. Liz Bobo said she would not be attending and had not been urged to attend by the Democratic leaders pushing for the gambling expansion.
"I've told them in the past they will not get my vote on expanding gambling now or ever," the Columbia Democrat told this newspaper, adding that she would be on a family vacation. "They will get the votes they want one way or another. ... If I thought there were any chance that I could stop this from going through, I would fly home for a day or two."
When we heard what she had to say, a thought crossed our mind: We hope Liz Bobo never retires.
It was a quixotic hope, of course, and as luck would have it, just a few weeks later Bobo, who turns 69 later this year, announced that she indeed will retire when her term is up in two years. Which means starting with the 2015 General Assembly session, Columbia, Howard County and all of Maryland will lose one their more independent and principled politicians.
Bobo's political career began 35 years ago when she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the County Council. After nine years on the council, she was elected county executive, the county's top elected position, in 1986. She served one four-year term as executive, then was elected to the General Assembly in 1994, where she has been a delegate ever since.
Liz Bobo might not be everything everyone would like in a politician, especially those of a conservative bent. But she's about as close as a person can get.
Her willingness to defy top Democrats and not vote for expanded gambling was only the latest example of her admirable independent streak, which in turn is only one of her admirable traits. She has been an unwavering advocate for environmentalism, campaign finance reform and for openness in government, an issue dear to our heart. Her knowledge of and devotion to Columbia have made her one of that town's staunchest advocates — even as it occasionally riled other Columbia boosters, who can be a fractious group, and who might not have agreed with her or felt she was stepping on their toes.
Potential candidates already are lining up to replace Bobo, and the list of contenders promises to be long. Voters should hope, as we do, that the list includes at least one person as conscientious, high-minded and forthright as the woman who's held that position for the past 18 years.