After three decades spent representing Baltimore’s interests in Annapolis, Del. Maggie McIntosh plans to retire from politics when her term ends next year, handing the baton to the next generation of leaders.
McIntosh, a Democrat from North Baltimore, announced her retirement plans in a letter to constituents Sunday.
Her departure is the latest in a string of retirements and resignations in the Maryland General Assembly that will contribute to a significant number of new faces sitting in the House and Senate chambers starting in 2023.
McIntosh, 73, is among at least a dozen state lawmakers who’ve announced plans not to run in 2022, whether they’re leaving politics entirely or running for other offices. And since the spring, about half a dozen lawmakers have resigned for various reasons.
McIntosh said she’s been considering retirement for a while, going back to the 2018 election. At the time, she’d been head of the powerful Appropriations Committee for a few years and ultimately decided she wanted to keep working on the state’s budget for at least another term.
McIntosh said she’s confident that Baltimore’s current set of lawmakers, and those who will be elected in the future, will represent the city well.
“I feel Baltimore is in great hands. ... There are so many of these new delegates that just have so much to add to what the city has had in the General Assembly all these years,” McIntosh said. “I need to get out of the way.”
“I do believe what I set out to do, I accomplished, and that is to mentor the next generation of leaders,” she said.
In her 30-year career, McIntosh racked up a long list of accomplishments, both politically and on important policy issues. She rose through the House of Delegates leadership, becoming the first woman to serve as Democratic majority leader. She led the Environmental Matters Committee and then the Appropriations Committee.
She also was the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, and played a pivotal role in Maryland’s legalization of same-sex marriages. When Maryland’s marriage equality law was put on the ballot in 2012, McIntosh said she helped craft the referendum strategy, walking a nuanced path to drum up support for the measure while not alienating or offending opponents.
“We ran a great campaign, based on meeting people where they were,” McIntosh said.
A former teacher, McIntosh said her work toward improving public education has been particularly meaningful. She worked on the state’s first round of expanding funding formulas to boost schools, known as the Thornton formula, and then again more recently on the latest funding effort, known as the Kirwan Commission.
The overhaul of funding for Maryland public schools — eventually giving them $4 billion per year — is designed to give teachers raises, expand job training programs and pay for additional services for children in the poorest communities.
“I taught at a time where I began to see the impact of poverty and trauma and other issues beginning to creep their way into the classroom and distract teachers and principals from being able to teach,” McIntosh said.
She thinks the recommendations from the Kirwan Commission, also called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, will go a long way to providing needed services to kids and families so that “teachers can get back to doing what teachers are trained to do, which is teach.”
Del. Stephanie Smith, who heads Baltimore’s delegation in Annapolis, said McIntosh has not only done pivotal work on education, the budget and marriage equality, but she also has shared her wisdom with the next generation of lawmakers.
“She’s not only individually powerful, she makes other people stronger and more effective,” said Smith, a fellow Democrat. “She engages in mentorship and giving opportunities for others to shine and grow. That’s important because governance is a team sport that requires cooperation.”
Two years ago, McIntosh made a play to become speaker of the House of Delegates following the death of longtime Speaker Michael E. Busch. The speaker is responsible for setting the chamber’s priorities, running legislative sessions and guiding legislation to passage.
In a lengthy, closed-door meeting of Democratic delegates, McIntosh secured support from a majority of Democrats — but not enough to overcome her opponent, Del. Dereck Davis, who was counting a fewer number of Democrats but also Republican delegates to have a larger total.
The Democrats did not want to elect a speaker partially on the strength of Republicans, leading to an impasse that was broken when McIntosh and Davis both agreed to withdraw. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones was elected instead, with the support of both McIntosh and Davis.
McIntosh said her failed bid for the speakership was not a factor in her decision to retire. Had she won, McIntosh she would have led as a short-term, transitional presiding officer.
McIntosh was born and raised in Kansas and started a career as an art teacher there before moving to Baltimore, where she taught in city schools and earned a master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins University.
She got involved in Democratic politics, working on campaigns — including those of legendary retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski — and serving on the party’s central committee. When a state delegate for her area moved to China to teach English in 1992, McIntosh applied for the position and was appointed to the seat.
McIntosh’s political colleagues were quick to heap praise on her. She said her phone was burning up with calls and texts wishing her well.
Jones, the speaker, said in a statement that McIntosh is an “exceptional leader,” praising her work on education, the budget and marriage equality.
“Her advice and contribution to the State has been unparalleled, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for her service,” said Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat.
McIntosh said she doesn’t have firm retirement plans yet, though she does intend to travel and spend time with her wife and family. She’ll be on the lookout, however, for opportunities “to continue to be a positive force for the city and the state.”