New House of Delegates GOP leadership could be on tap

A story by John Wagner which ran online at the Washington Post website earlier this week suggested that changes could be in order for Maryland House Republican leadership, with an election held after this year’s session ends in April. In his piece, Wagner suggests the caucus could be leaning toward Delegate Leroy Myers, Jr. (R – Washington) as the new Minority Leader and Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R- Baltimore County) as the Minority Whip. They would replace current Minority Leader Delegate Tony O’Donnell (R – Calvert) and Minority Whip Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R -Talbot). O’Donnell has held the Minority Leader post since 2007, while Haddaway-Riccio took over as Whip in 2011. One Delegate who wished to remain anonymous confided that 22 Delegates are on board: “Enough to do it,” said the Delegate.

Leadership struggles in Maryland’s perpetual minority are not uncommon; most recently, in the summer of 2011, Mark Newgent at Red Maryland reported on an uprising featuring Delegates Nic Kipke (R – Anne Arundel) and Michael Smigiel (R- Cecil). At the time, the disagreements stemmed from a perceived lack of fiscal conservatism, with Kipke being quoted as being encouraged to run by a “contingent of delegates from the Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore, and Western Maryland.” It just may be the same restive group wishing for change this time, but just like I pointed out when I criticized Kipke’s anemic record of conservatism, the same can be said about Delegate Myers.

In looking at his overall record, Delegate Myers lags behind a number of other conservatives in the General Assembly. For example, he has often voted for Governor O’Malley’s budgetary plans as well as a number of other steps toward a Radical Green agenda, such as solar energy portfolio standards and overly broad coastal buffer zones. He’s also missed a large number of votes over the years for various reasons, including his son’s 2009 death in a motorcycle accident which occurred as that session was reaching its close.

Nor has Myers been an outspoken advocate for conservative causes, which makes the prospect of support from the body surprising unless that bid is coming from the more moderate members.

On the other hand, conservatives who are unhappy with O’Donnell’s leadership have a number of good, outspoken leadership choices:

  • Delegate Neil Parrott (R – Washington) is best known for his leadership on the petition drives which brought three ballot questions to the voters in 2012. Although none succeeded at the ballot, the petitions motivated tens of thousands of voters to vote in the election; for example, opposition to both Question 4 and Question 6 outstripped the 971,869 votes cast statewide for Mitt Romney.
  • Delegate Michael McDermott (R – Worcester) has developed a reputation as a fiery orator, one who can speak extemporaneously on a number of subjects. Chief among his initiatives this session is a bill to repeal the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Prreservation Act of 2012, better known as the “Septic Bill” or “Tier Map Bill.” McDermott was considered enough of a thorn in the Democrats’ side that his district was redrawn to place both him and Delegate Charles Otto (R – Somerset) in the same single-member district.
  • Since both Parrott and McDermott were elected in 2010, members may want a more veteran presence as leader. If they want one with a lengthy and solid conservative voting record, they could choose Delegate Warren Miller (R – Howard), a member since 2003. In this term he is primary sponsor of both a right-to-work bill and enacting a statewide E-Verify program.

While the current situation suggests there’s “enough to do it,” April 30 is a long way away. A lot can change in that time: deals can be made, Delegates get cold feet, or leadership reads the writing on the wall. Whether any or all of these happens remains to be seen, but it’s probably best that any leadership struggle waits until after the session to occur.