Maryland House Appropriations Chair McIntosh to retire at the end of her term

An emotional Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, watches the vote tally as the House of Delegates passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill in March 2020. (Maryland Matters/Danielle E. Gaines)

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House Appropriations Chair Maggie L. McIntosh (D), a powerful and trailblazing figure in Maryland politics and one of the most consequential legislators from Baltimore City in history, announced Sunday night that she will retire from the General Assembly next year rather than seek reelection.

“At the end of this term, I will have served 30 years and been successfully elected seven times to the Maryland House of Delegates,” she wrote in an email to constituents and supporters that went out Sunday night. “However, my name will not be on the ballot next year. After careful thought and personal reflection, I am looking forward to retiring from the House of Delegates at the end of 2022. Family, friends, and community will get my full attention.”

McIntosh’s looming retirement adds to the leadership transition underway in the House: Former Ways and Means Chair Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery) recently stepped down from her leadership position and was just replaced by Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard). And House Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) is considered the front-runner to replace State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), who plans to retire by the end of the year, meaning that panel is likely to have a new leader in time for the next regular legislative session in January.

McIntosh, 73, was an aide to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and a member of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee in 1992 when she was appointed to a north Baltimore district to replace former Del. Anne Scarlett Perkins (D), who had resigned to take a teaching job in China. McIntosh quickly moved up through the ranks in the House of Delegates, and racked up several important “firsts” along the way.

In 2001, she became the first woman to serve as House majority leader and then spent a dozen years as the first woman chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee. When then-Del. Norman H. Conway (D-Lower Shore), the Appropriations chair, lost his reelection bid in 2014, she moved over to head that committee, becoming the first woman to chair the powerful budget-writing panel.

Equally significant, McIntosh was the first openly LGBTQ member of the General Assembly, coming out in 2000. She married her longtime partner, Diane Stollenwerk, a health policy expert, in 2013, soon after same-sex marriage was legalized in Maryland.

In her email Sunday night, McIntosh called her decision to come out “one of the most important moments of my life.”

“There was tremendous public support, notes from parents with LGBTQ children thanking me, and most important, a subsequent wave of openly gay members who were elected in their own right,” she wrote. The yearslong push for marriage equality finally passed in 2012.

But McIntosh’s effort to become the first woman speaker of the House fell just short in 2019, following the death of longtime speaker Michael E. Busch (D).

At a Democratic caucus meeting on May 1, the day delegates were scheduled to choose a new speaker, McIntosh, the favorite of most liberal lawmakers, was stuck at 58 votes, short of the 71 votes she needed to win the job on the House floor. Davis was at 40 votes, but he had also secured the support of the House Republican Caucus, which could have put him over the top in a floor vote. Rather than elect a speaker with GOP votes, House Democrats turned to the speaker pro tem, Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), as a compromise candidate, and she prevailed in both the caucus and on the House floor. McIntosh was the first to nominate Jones on the House floor following the caucus vote.

As Baltimore’s population shrank, the contours of McIntosh’s district changed significantly, but she always won reelection with ease. And following the departures, through death or political defeat, of such pivotal city lawmakers as Del. Howard P. “Pete” Rawlings (D) and Sens. Barbara A. Hoffman (D) and Clarence W. Blount (D), she became the most important state legislator from Baltimore — especially after taking over the Appropriations Committee, where she regularly steered resources to the city.

As a former teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools, McIntosh was also a significant player in crafting the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an education reform package that is just beginning to be implemented.

McIntosh’s departure next year will also add to the political transition taking place in her neighborhood. Longtime city councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D), who had served in City Hall since the 1970s and whose district largely overlapped with McIntosh’s, chose not to seek reelection last year.

Beyond her legislative service, McIntosh worked as a federal lobbyist for Johns Hopkins University for more than two decades, and was also a valued political strategist who frequently did work for the Maryland Democratic Party and other candidates and Democratic causes.

In her message to constituents, McIntosh listed “a few highlights from incredible moments that I believe have made our state great: passing the Dream Act, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, Climate Change Act, expanding health care, and eliminating the death penalty. In the past two years, I was privileged to play a role in passing major K-12 education funding with both the Blueprint for the Future (Kirwan) and the Built to Learn Act. Maryland students, especially those with the most need, will benefit from our work. I must also recognize the incredibly talented and dedicated staff that helped with budget and policy guidance. The Maryland legislature has some of the nation’s best. Finally, last year Speaker Jones led us in passing needed police reform and other measures to make Maryland a more just state while we worked with the Senate and Administration to guide us through the pandemic — helping businesses and families.”

She also paid tribute to some of her mentors and colleagues in the legislature, including Rawlings, Busch, Jones, Kopp, former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D), and the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D), who began his political career as a member of the House of Delegates.

While McIntosh’s decision to retire was not entirely surprising, the timing of the announcement, late on a Sunday night and just weeks before the legislature is scheduled to meet in an early December special session, caught some colleagues off-guard. But tributes were beginning to come in early Monday morning.

“During Maggie’s time in the Maryland House of Delegates, she has mentored countless legislators — me included,” Sen. Cory V. McCray (D), chair of the Baltimore City Senate delegation, said in a statement to Maryland Matters. “As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, we can always count on her to deliver for Baltimore, Maryland, and for our children. Budget year after budget year, Chairwoman McIntosh is always working to reach compromises to keep Maryland moving forward while investing in core infrastructure needs. For this, we owe her an enormous debt.”

In her message to constituents, McIntosh said she had confidence in the new leaders stepping up in the legislature, and expressed gratitude to colleagues, staff “and especially my constituents.”

“The motive for writing this letter is to express how grateful I am to have served in this position,” McIntosh said. “To Baltimore residents, there really are no words to thank you for the honor and privilege to serve you. Your support will always fill my heart. The entire time I served in public office I have lived in a Baltimore neighborhood, Tuscany Canterbury. These neighbors and friends have been the backbone of my success.”

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