Del. Nathaniel Oaks will likely represent Northwest Baltimore in the Maryland State Senate after being unanimously recommended by Democratic Party officials on Thursday evening.
Oaks was recommended by a panel of Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee members to replace Lisa Gladden in Annapolis after the longtime state senator resigned before the start of the annual legislative session this year. Gladden, midway through her fourth term representing the 41st District, has multiple sclerosis.
Oaks wiped away tears after the vote, which he called "emotional."
"It's a good feeling. Something that I think I always wanted is coming to fruition," said Oaks, who has been a member of the House of Delegates for 28 years. "We got a lot of work to do up here in the Park Heights area. Lots of work to do in Edmondson Village. It's a whole lot of pockets that need a whole lot."
Oaks' name will be sent to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is obligated to appoint someone nominated by the committee. If Oaks is appointed, it would leave a state delegate vacancy in the 41st District, and Democratic Party officials would need to recommend a replacement for him.
The six-member Democratic Central Committee panel included Oaks, who voted for himself, as previous replacement candidates have done. The vote was unanimous.
"Why would I do that?" Oaks said when asked whether he considered recusing himself from the vote. "What would that say? That I'm not qualified so I shouldn't vote for myself?"
Oaks' challenger was Jay Steinmetz, the CEO of Barcoding Inc. A third challenger, Matthew Minson, dropped out before the meeting.
Steinmetz cited his business background and passion for helping Baltimore in asking for the job. Oaks cited his long experience in the state legislature and answered questions from the panel about local control of schools, dilapidated buildings and sick leave policies.
Former City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector said she voted for Oaks because of his experience.
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"I needed somebody that had really good relationships and experience," Spector said. "Baltimore is at a very crucial time, and to me it was unacceptable that we open the session with a Senate seat empty and a delegate seat empty in the 41st District. So catch up was, from my way of thinking, taking a very experienced person and putting him in the Senate seat."
The election of former state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh as mayor of Baltimore triggered a series of shake-ups to the state legislature. Bilal Ali, a community liaison in the Baltimore state's attorney's office, was recommended last week to fill a vacant delegate seat in the 41st District.
Gladden missed the second half of the 2016 legislative session as her multiple sclerosis worsened, then resigned before the start of the state legislature's current 90-day session.
The former state senator publicly disclosed her multiple sclerosis in 2010, saying she had been diagnosed in 1995. Her symptoms worsened over the years and she began using a wheelchair during last year's legislative session.
The meeting to select Gladden's replacement was interrupted briefly by a young man who said he had applied for the seat and been told his application had not come in the mail. The man, who identified himself as Anthony White, accused officials of corruption and of tearing up his application. He was later removed by police.
Scherod C. Barnes, chair of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, said he waited until after the post office had closed on the day of the deadline to pick up all the applications, and suggested White had missed the deadline.