State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican representing District 34 that includes parts of Harford and Cecil counties along the Route 40 corridor, announced Tuesday that she will not be seeking re-election next year.
"After nearly a year of thoughtful consideration, prayer and discussion with my family, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to my State Senate seat in 2014," Jacobs said in a written statement Tuesday morning. "This has been very personal and extremely difficult decision to make because I love representing the people of Cecil and Harford County."
"I am humbled by and grateful for the extraordinary trust that the citizens in Cecil and Harford County have placed in me and for the honor and privilege of representing them for nearly 20 years in the Maryland General Assembly," she said.
Jacobs, a resident of the Long Bar Harbor area of Abingdon, started her career in public service in 1994 when she was elected to the House of Delegates and served as the Freshman Minority Whip in 1995 and the Deputy Minority Whip in 1997.
Jacobs was elected in 1998 to the Maryland State Senate where she served in various leadership capacities. In 2008, she was chosen by her peers to lead the Republican Caucus as the Minority Whip and in 2011 she was elected Senate Minority Leader.
When she retires, Jacobs' 16 years in the State Senate will match the 16 years served in the chamber by the late William S. James, who was a senator from Harford County from 1955 to 1971 and served the latter eight years as Senate president.
With her four years of service in the House of Delegates and 16 in the Senate at the end of this term, Jacobs will also join James, the late Sen. William H. Amoss Jr. and former Del. William H. Cox Jr. as the only legislators from Harford to serve 20 or more years in the General Assembly dating back to the mid-20th Century. Sen James served eight years in the House of Delegates prior to becoming a senator, Cox served 20 years in the House from 1971 to 1991 and Sen. Amoss served eight years in the House and 14 years in the Senate from 1975 until his death in 1997.
Jacobs is known for her advocacy on behalf of children. In 2007, she sponsored "Jessica's Law," requiring that the most heinous sex crimes against children be punishable with a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. She has passed numerous laws since in her effort to protect vulnerable children and adults.
"I entered the political arena before our three daughters were married," Jacobs said in her statement." Having eight precious grandchildren has strengthened my resolve and desire to protect children from those who mean to do them harm. My grandchildren are a major part of who I am and everything I do."
Jacobs was instrumental in the passage of the first anti-gang law in Maryland after a constituent from the community where she once lived was murdered as part of a gang initiation.
In 2010, Jacobs introduced legislation that for the first time regulated health and safety standards in abortion clinics in Maryland. This came about after a doctor, who was not licensed to practice medicine in Maryland, nearly killed a woman in his Cecil County abortion clinic. After hours of compelling testimony, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene agreed to regulate these abortion clinics. The clinics must adhere to the same medical and safety standards as other surgical clinics in Maryland.
After several years of working with various state agencies, Jacobs was instrumental in the passage of the "Birthmatch" law that requires state agencies to work together with hospitals to create a database matching newborn records with birth mothers and fathers who have previously lost their parental rights.
Jacobs serves on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Throughout her career she has received numerous awards not only for her advocacy of children, but also for her tough stance on crime. She is known around the state for her strong support of Second Amendment gun rights.
Jacobs has twice been named one of Maryland's Top 100 Women by The Daily Record and in 2011 the Maryland State's Attorney's Association named her "2011 Senatorial Legislator of The Year."
"My husband Bruce has been extremely supportive and has encouraged me throughout my years in public service," Jacobs said in her statement. "I am very thankful for him and the sacrifice he has made these past 19 years. While I love representing the people of Cecil and Harford County, it is time for us to spend more time together as this chapter of our lives comes to a close."
The rest of her statement says:
"I am truly grateful for the love and support of my family and friends who have helped me along the way. I am especially indebted to my staff whose loyalty, knowledge and compassion have made constituent service their priority in serving the people we have represented over the years."
"In my last 18 months I will continue working tirelessly to represent the people of Harford and Cecil County. While my career in politics may be coming to a close I will never stop fighting to make a difference in the lives of those who mean so much to me."
"I thank all those who have traveled this journey with me through their support and belief in me. May God bless them as much as He has blessed me."
Jacobs won four Senate terms in a historically Democratic district. She had considered retiring after her third term, as well.
In her last election in 2010 in which she defeated former senator and frequent candidate Art Helton, Jacobs narrowly lost in the Harford portion encompassing about two-thirds of the district, but easily won on the strength of her Cecil County vote. It was still her closest race since she won her Senate seat for the first time in 1998.
The Legislative District 34 boundaries have changed since the 2010 election, however, and western Cecil County is no longer part of the district, having been moved into neighboring District 35. The greater Bel Air area and Abingdon, which have been reliably Republican over past 25 years, have become part of District 34, replacing western Cecil.
Helton, a Democrat, has already announced he is running for the District 34 seat again next year. Several Harford Republicans have expressed interest in the seat but have kept that interest muted in deference to a formal announcement from Jacobs, who many in the local GOP had expected would not to seek re-election.
Jacobs decision not to seek re-election, means two of the three senators currently representing Harford won't be returning to Annapolis after next year's election. District 35 Sen. Barry Glassman, who is also a Republican, recently announced he will be a candidate for Harford County executive in 2014. The third senator, District 7 Sen. J.B. Jennings, who is also a Republican, represents western Harford and eastern Baltimore County.