The Maryland Democratic Party is expected to turn to a moderate former delegate from Western Maryland as its next chairman as it seeks to rebuild after a devastating loss in last year's gubernatorial race.
Several highly-placed party activists said D. Bruce Poole, a former majority leader in the House of Delegates, is the consensus choice to replace Yvette Lewis as party chair at an executive committee meeting Thursday night.
Lewis, who has held that position since 2011, said she will submit her resignation at that meeting. She said she began informing people of her decision to step down for family reasons last week. Lewis said her father recently died and that she has had to spend a lot of time with her mother in North Carolina.
"The party needs more focus than I can now give," she said.
A transition has been in the works for some time, however. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin has been actively involved in the process of identifying the next party leaders, spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said. She said Cardin would not discuss the choice until the executive committee meets.
The same sources who identified Poole as the party's next chairman said Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley is expected to become party vice-chair. Bob Fenity, the party's executive director, said the executive committee will fill positions on an interim basis this week. The statewide central committee will decide in May whether to confirm the choices.
By choosing a chair from Western Maryland and a No. 2 from the Eastern Shore, Maryland Democrats are signaling that they want to be more competitive in rural Maryland, where 2014 gubernatorial nominee Anthony G. Brown was swamped by Republican Larry Hogan.
Poole, 55, knows a lot about political survival as a Democrat outside metropolitan Washington and Baltimore. He served three terms in the House after being elected at age 27. He became majority leader under Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell in 1991 but was dumped by Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. after Mitchell resigned.
Poole emerged as a vocal opponent of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to build stadiums for National Football League teams in Baltimore and Prince George's County.
He squeaked by in the 1994 election but fell victim to the rising Republican tide in Western Maryland when he lost his bid for a fourth term in 1998. He has remained active in public affairs since then, serving on the State Ethics Commission from 2000 to 2004 and on the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission since 2008.
An attorney in Hagerstown, Poole declined to comment Tuesday.