There’s now officially a three-way race to become the next speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Hours after a funeral Tuesday for Speaker Michael Busch, Democratic Del. Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County and Democratic Del. Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore confirmed they are campaigning for the post.
They join Del. Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County in vying for the position.
A vote is expected May 1.
Busch died April 7 at age 72, after serving as speaker since 2003. The Anne Arundel County Democrat was praised for his inclusive leadership style, diversifying committee leadership and listening to the concerns of Republicans, even though GOP delegates were outnumbered 99 to 42 in the chamber.
McIntosh believes she has support locked up from more than half of the Democrats in the House. For the next two weeks, she’s focused on “hanging onto it.”
McIntosh said she has pledges from delegates in Baltimore and several counties, and support among younger and more progressive members.
McIntosh said Busch helped move the House in a more left-leaning direction. Under his leadership, lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, abolished the death penalty and raised the minimum wage — twice.
“I want to continue to lead the House in a way that I believe Mike Busch would want us to, which is that the House has, over the last several years, become more and more progressive,” McIntosh said. “I have a progressive record.”
Davis, meanwhile, said he’s courting “each and every vote in the House of Delegates.”
He declined to divulge his vote count, but said he’s winning delegates over by listening to their concerns and the needs of their districts.
“I’ve gotten to know the problems of Western Maryland, of the Eastern Shore, the central part of the state,” Davis said. “I believe that I am the person best positioned to bring folks together to address the concerns that all Marylanders face.”
Davis said those include funding public schools, improving public safety, addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and strengthening the economy.
McIntosh and Davis had been presumed to be candidates for the speakership and were rumored to be campaigning behind the scenes, but they declined to discuss their campaigns publicly until after Busch’s funeral.
Jones could not be reached Tuesday, but she told The Baltimore Sun last week that she wants the top job, too. Jones initially also planned to wait until after the funeral, but said word started getting around that she wasn’t interested, so she announced her campaign.
Jones, 64, served as speaker pro tem under Busch. That meant leading House sessions when he was absent, including the final few weeks of the session when the speaker was hospitalized. She’s been a state delegate representing western Baltimore County since 1997.
“In terms of my style, I’m fair to everybody and I know when I need to be firm,” Jones said last week. “I would be the best person to continue Speaker Michael Busch’s legacy.”
McIntosh and Davis also cite the late speaker as influences.
“Speaker Busch was very much one of my mentors,” Davis said. “As we’ve heard over the last week or so, his style was welcomed by many. I would try to build upon that — certainly his inclusiveness.”
Davis, 51, has chaired the Economic Matters Committee since Busch left that chairmanship to become speaker. He’s been a member of the House since 1995.
Davis said he would lead the body while not micromanaging committee chairs and other leaders.
Davis said he thinks a debate over who the next speaker should be “healthy” for the House.
“It’s never good when we have coronations,” he said.
McIntosh, 71, has been a delegate since 1992. She chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee and before that, she headed up what was then the Environmental Matters Committee.
“Mike Busch was the guy who brought me to this dance. He really did,” McIntosh said. “I would hope my leadership style is similar, that I try to see talent, see the best in everyone.”
McIntosh said that as a committee chairwoman, she’s been inclusive to Republicans on her committee — something she would continue if elected speaker.
Del. Nic Kipke, the House minority leader who represents the Republicans, said he’s heard that pitch from some of the speaker candidates. He declined to name them.
He said the Republican caucus is willing to consider the three candidates and plans to vote as a bloc for one of the Democrats.
“We hope that the next speaker will build upon the Mike Busch-style of leadership, ensuring that Republicans have a seat at the table for important discussions, treating our members with respect and ensuring that everyone is treated fairly when we have debates on important issues,” Kipke said.
Another significant contingent is the Legislative Black Caucus, which counts 45 members in the House, all Democrats.
Del. Darryl Barnes is the chairman. He declined to say which candidates his members would favor but said all three are well-qualified.
He said the caucus’ decision will be based on factors that include the candidates’ records in their districts and how they would support the African American community in Maryland.
Maryland has only had white men as speaker of the House. Jones and Davis are black and McIntosh is openly gay.
“This is a historic moment for all three of them,” Barnes said. “By all accounts, all three of them would be making history should one of them get elected as speaker of the House.”