Del. Barbara Robinson took a step Wednesday toward filling the state Senate seat vacated by new Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh.
The Democratic central committee for the district voted, 5-2, to recommend Robinson over former City Councilman William "Pete" Welch.
Robinson said she felt "fantastic" after the vote. She was a Pugh ally in the General Assembly, but said her record in office won her the committee's recommendation.
"I'm just anxious to carry on some of the things Senator Pugh put in place," Robinson said. "She and I worked so well together."
Robinson, deputy majority whip and former chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, has served in the House of Delegates since 2007.
Her name will be forwarded to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is obligated to appoint someone nominated by the committee.
If Hogan appoints Robinson to the Senate, that would create an open delegate seat in the district. The same committee would nominate a person to fill that seat.
The General Assembly will convene Jan. 11 for its annual 90-day session in Annapolis.
Welch received two votes on the seven-member panel — from his mother and daughter.
Neither was required to recuse themselves, said Betty Clark, 40th District chair of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee.
While having such close relationships with central committee members is unusual, people who serve on such committees often have relationships with elected officials.
Welch, who lost the April Democratic primary for his council seat, addressed those relationships Wednesday.
He told the packed room that he wished more people could vote for Pugh's replacement.
"I wish everyone in this room could vote in this election," he said.
Chuck Conner, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said nothing in the party's bylaws call for committee members to recuse themselves, and he would not expect them to.
Central committees are often filled with aspiring party hopefuls, who at some point might be candidates for a vacancy in elected office or within the broader party structure.
"Oftentimes, they might be voting for themselves for something," he said.
In addition to Welch, former Baltimore City Councilman Nick J. Mosby applied to fill Pugh's seat. Mosby dropped out of the Democratic primary for mayor and endorsed Pugh, helping clear the field for her eventual victory.
Pugh's spokesman said the mayor neither publicly nor privately endorsed a candidate.
Pugh has two close allies on the committee.
Clark is a personal friend and co-owns a clothing boutique with the new mayor. Another committee member, Gary Brown, is a longtime Pugh aide.
Immediately after she won the Democratic primary for mayor in April, Pugh said the seven-member panel had "begun counting their votes" for potential replacements.
Pugh won the general election in November and was sworn in as mayor Tuesday.
Another central committee member, Marshall Bell, worked as a legislative analyst for the Baltimore City Council.
Del. Antonio Hayes also applied for Pugh's Senate seat. He entered the room Wednesday to loud applause from onlookers wearing T-shirts bearing his name.
Hayes is a first-term delegate and former deputy mayor who backed Pugh's primary rival, former Mayor Sheila Dixon.
District resident Deborah Brooks also applied to fill Pugh's seat.
Each of the five candidates was interviewed separately in a public session.