Speakers race splits members of the black caucus

McIntosh v Davis: A Heavyweight Fight for House Speaker

It is one of the most coveted positions in state government, one held by 106 individuals over the past 242-years, each representing various political parties from Democrat to Republican to Whig and Federalist. The only unifying characteristic of those who served in this role is was that they were all white men. That tradition will come to a screeching halt later this week, as the next leader of the 141-member chamber will either be a gay white female or an African American man – a historic first regardless of who wins the contest for Speaker on Wednesday.

However, the battle for the black vote within the House won’t be as easy as some might think.

The African American candidate, Prince Georges’ County Delegate Dereck Davis was able to clear one hurdle by getting another African American candidate for Speaker, Delegate Adrienne Jones, to withdrawal her bid and give her support to him. That allowed for less division within the ranks of the 45-members of the legislative black caucus. However, that caucus recently lost one vote over the weekend, as freshman Delegate Regina Boyce decided to resign from the body due to the alleged comments made by the caucus chairman, Delegate Darryl Barnes.

Boyce, an African American female representative from Baltimore City’s 43rd district, sent out an email to Barnes and the caucus stating her displeasure with the words she says Barnes used towards the other candidate in the race for speaker, Delegate Maggie McIntosh. According to her email, originally published by Marylander Matters, Boyce states that Barnes referred to McIntosh as the “white lesbian” when making comments regarding the race for speaker on the final day of the legislative session earlier this month.

Boyce stated that Chairman Barnes said: “We are [not] going to let a white lesbian be the speaker of the house,” in an apparent reference to McIntosh – who would be the first legislator in state history to be an openly gay female serving in this role. Boyce said she was “ashamed and embarrassed for her caucus becoming so obsessed with having the first black person in leadership that they would tear down someone else to express that desire.”

However, former black caucus chairwoman and the current chair of Baltimore City’s House Delegation, Delegate Cheryl Glenn, called Delegate Boyce a liar earlier this morning on the Larry Young Morning Show. She said, “she’s just a freshman” and later stated that Delegate Barnes never said such a thing. Other members we spoke with also stated that they never heard the chairman say such a thing during the caucus hearing that Delegate Boyce referenced, some stating that it was merely a smokescreen to keep people from voting to elect Davis as the House’s first black speaker.

“So you mean to tell me that he {Chairman Davis} used this kind of insensitive language three weeks ago, and not one person called him out on it and it took her almost a month before she decided to address the matter and resign because of it,” said one caucus member. “This is all being methodically done to ensure her district colleague [Delegate McIntosh] wins, by any means necessary; and she needs to be honest and call it like it is – you want to vote for your district colleague. That’s fine, but don’t try to disparage the good name of our chairman in your attempts at diluting the black vote.”

We reached out to Delegate Barnes’ office for comment but received no response. However, it appears that Boyce isn’t the only black caucus member willing to break ranks if Delegate McIntosh wins the support of the majority of the democratic caucus. Traditionally*, whichever candidate wins the support of that caucus garners the support of the entire caucus when the vote for Speaker comes to the full floor for a vote. (*FYI:  tradition has always witnessed a white man win the majority vote of the democratic caucus.)

However, rumors have swirled for weeks that Davis may have brokered a deal with the House’s GOP caucus, which would give him an additional 42-votes if they vote as a bloc, which their leadership has said that they planned to do. If that’s the case, Davis would only need 29 of the black caucus’ 45 votes in order to garner the 71-votes necessary to win the speakership. And the McIntosh team, as well as the entire Democratic Party apparatus, seems to be doing whatever they can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Appearing on the LYMS earlier this morning, McIntosh made a case for why members of the democratic caucus should not allow for the influence of the Republican Party to determine the outcome of the race for speaker. This sentiment was further expressed in a letter signed by dozens of democrats being circulated on social media, that call on all democrats to vote for whichever candidate wins the support of the democratic caucus. That person appears to be McIntosh, who has said that she has garnered support of at least 60 of her 98-democratic house colleagues, and almost a dozen of them are members of the black caucus.

It appears that delegates from both Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, the state’s two African American strongholds, as well as black members from Montgomery and Anne Arundel County, have signed on to the democratic letter, which include: Delegate Boyce, along with Baltimore City state delegates Tony Bridges, Robbyn Lewis, Stephanie Smith and Melissa Wells. Delegate J. Sandra Barlett of AA County, Delegate(s) Gabrield Acevero and Alfred Carr of Montgomery County and two delegates from Davis’ home county of Prince Georges – Delegate(s) Erek Barron and Joseline Pena-Melnyk.

And while others may get swayed by the party leadership to follow suit in the next 48-years leading up to the Wednesday vote, if Davis can hold those defections to a minimum, he could still garner the votes necessary to defeat McIntosh – even after losing the vote in his own party’s caucus by a two to one margin. However, there’s no guarantee that the GOP will vote in lockstep, as McIntosh and Democratic Party officials may be able to persuade a handful of Republican delegates to swing her way, which would really make this race razor thin.

 

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