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The Legislative Black Caucus announced during a news conference their "overwhelming" decision to support Del. Dereck Davis of Prince Georges as the next speaker of the House of Delegates. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

As a progressive, pro-growth business leader, I’ve proudly supported the Maryland Democratic Party for the last two decades both with my time and my resources. I even considered, at the encouragement of leadership, to serve as its chair. During my extended period of engagement, thoughtful leadership, inclusive management, and intentional consensus building have been hallmarks of the Democratic Party’s operation and instrumental to achieving a unity that has improved the lives of all Marylanders across this great state. That is why the situation unfolding in Annapolis around the selection of the next speaker of the House of Delegates is deeply concerning.

Maryland’s Democratic Party was indeed fortunate to have three experienced and well-qualified candidates for speaker, each representing our great state’s diversity and all of whom I’ve been privileged to support in the past. By all accounts, Maggie McIntosh, Baltimore City delegate and chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, has already secured a clear majority of votes within the Democratic Caucus to be chosen as the next speaker of the House of Delegates. Electing the first female speaker of the House would demonstrate Maryland’s commitment to not only electing a great leader, but also its commitment to gender equality.

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The Maryland Democratic Party, and the interests of the citizens it represents, are well served by the practice of electing legislative leaders supported by a majority of party caucus members. After a vigorously contested election offering a fair opportunity to support the candidate they believe is best suited to serve in critical leadership roles like speaker, party members should set aside their personal differences and agendas, unite around their shared values, and unanimously rally to support the caucus’ preferred candidate.

We’ve come to expect the politics of division out of the Trump White House, not Maryland’s House of Delegates. The divisive and, frankly, shameful whispers about Maryland’s next speaker being elected courtesy of Republican votes is a scenario only discussed in hushed tones because of the betrayal it would represent.

Moving in this direction is antithetical to the celebrated legacy of the late Speaker Michael E. Busch, whose principled leadership was so critical to moving our party and state forward by investing in our public schools, expanding access to affordable high quality health care, and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Sustaining such progress would be impossible for a speaker supported by far less than half the members of their own political party. The idea of depending on a transactional and inevitably temporary alliance with Republican legislators is a threat to the legacy of a Busch-led, united Democratic House caucus.

I applaud Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Maya Rockeymore Cummings for her passionate call for Democratic unity as the state considers the appointment of its next speaker. To ensure we have the best candidate for the job, we need all of our federal, state, and local democratic elected officials to join together and ensure that Maryland’s Democratic leadership is sustained.

Martin G. Knott Jr., Baltimore

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