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Md. unions, GOP push to be heard in house speaker race

Eleven Maryland unions and progressive groups are urging the Democrats in the House of Delegates to unite to elect the next Speaker of the House in Annapolis.

Groups — including the Maryland State Education Association, Progressive Maryland and Service Employees International Union locals — signed letters sent to house delegates urging them to back the nominee chosen by the Democratic caucus.

The letter states, “Efforts to splinter the caucus will put the priorities of working families and our shared Maryland values at risk,” and it says that the Democratic caucus should speak with a unified voice.

The letter comes one week before the General Assembly holds a special session to elect a new House leader. Michael Busch, the longest-serving Speaker of the House in Maryland history, died April 7, one day before the end of the 90-day legislative session.

Steve Hershkowitz, with the Maryland State Education Association, said the call for unity is strategic. “If you got elected on the House floor with just 29 Democratic votes, you might have a hard time pulling together a coalition that could pass, for instance, a new funding formula that will be recommended by the Kirwan Commission” — the state commission that recommended increased spending for education.

House Republicans have already declared their intention to vote as a bloc in the upcoming election. House Minority leader Republican Del. Nicholaus Kipke, who represents parts of Anne Arundel County, said that there’s no attempt to “wheel and deal,” but that Republicans want a seat at the table in the legislative process.

“We’ve decided to stand together and back a candidate who projects themselves as a nonpartisan speaker; someone who will be a good speaker of the House for all of Maryland,” Kipke said.

Three Democratic delegates are running to lead their colleagues in the House; Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones, Del. Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Dereck Davis, Chair of the Economic Matters Committee.

“I think any of the three who have announced a run would make a great speaker. I think they would do a good job” Kipke said. “In the last few years we had a great working relationship with Speaker Busch, and we want to see the next speaker be someone who’ll build on his legacy.”

Both Hershkowitz and Kipke said that it’s possible another candidate could put in a bid to be the next speaker. “There may be others thinking about it,” Kipke said.

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