Two longtime state senators set to retire later this month

As shoppers young and old alike enter the holiday season with an eager eye on the discounted deals that stores are offering up to help make this year unforgettable; it appears that electronics and stocking stuffers aren’t the only presents that residents of Maryland’s 11th and 44th legislative districts will have their eye on this Christmas.

In what can only be described as stunning news, not one but two longtime, influential state senators are rumored to be ready to resign their positions in the Maryland State Senate, only weeks ahead of the start of the 90-day legislative session, set to begin in Annapolis on January 8, 2020. Both the timing and the fact that not one, but two, state legislators – who aren’t facing criminal charges or any sort of negative publicity – have decided to walk away from their elected positions is a miracle in and of itself – given that most lawmakers don’t give up their seat of power unless otherwise forced to do so through death, defeat or indictment.

Both Senators, Bobby Zirkin (D-11) and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-44), represent Baltimore County, though Nathan-Pulliam also represents a sliver of Baltimore City, which most expect to be drawn out of the district after the 2020 census and the redistricting process to follow. However, with these two powerhouse legislators stepping aside apparently before the state of the 441st legislative session, it appears that newly crowned Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-46) will have a lot more headaches to deal with in the coming weeks.

Zirkin, the 48-year old attorney originally from Davis, California, is serving in his fourth term as the state senator for the 11th district, stemming back to 2006 when he won the seat after serving two terms (8-years) as one of the district’s three state delegates. The often controversial conservative democrat, Zirkin was named chairman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings Committee in 2014 by the former senate president Thomas “Mike” Miller – who recently stepped down as the nation’s longest serving state senate president.

And while Zirkin came under intense opposition by groups advocating and pushing for criminal justice reform efforts, he easily defeated his democratic opponent in 2018, garnering 70% of the vote in the democratic primary and receiving no opposition in the General Election. And given that Zirkin is still one of the younger members of the state senate, even after the 2018 election that brought in a handful of younger state lawmakers, it makes people wonder why he appears set on retiring from his seemingly safe seat.

Nathan-Pulliam on the other hand, an 80-year old Jamaican-born legislator who has fought hard for her constituents for over twenty-years mostly in the House of Delegates, is said to be battling ongoing health issues which brought her to this latest decision to resign. Nathan-Pulliam, who was the first Caribbean-born person to ever be elected to the state senate, was first elected to the body in 2014 after serving in the House since being elected in 1994. The registered nurse who has made health issues her staple platform since being elected, currently serves as the vice-chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Senate President Ferguson will seemingly have two very tough decisions on his hand once the session begins next month. The first being which committees to assign the freshmen legislators that will fill their positions in the coming weeks; and the second being, which one of Ferguson’s key allies – who helped secure him the necessary votes in the recent hard fought battle to secure the senate president seat amongst his colleagues – will he choose to become chair of the Judiciary and vice-chair of EHEA.

However, the first headache in this whole process following their rumored resignations is the appointment process, and what that will mean for the voters of these two respective districts, as well as the starry-eyed, politically ambitious folks who are looking to capitalize off of this moment. Whether that be the three state delegates that represent these districts, or the democratic state state central committee members looking to elevate to a paid, political relevant position. So here’s how the process will work:

First, once either one of the state senators officially resigns, it will then be left up to the democratic state central committee for that district to begin the process of filling that vacancy. They will have thirty-days following the resignation to submit a name to the Governor, Larry Hogan – a Republican – for his appointment of said person. The central committee will begin the process by advertising the interview process, putting out a call to all persons who meet the eligibility requirements of the position: being 25-years of age, a resident of the district for at least one year of the date of appointment and a member of the political party of the retiring legislator – in this case, a registered democrat.

They will then hold interviews in a public place where the members of the democratic state central committee from that district will listen to the applicants who apply for the seat and then immediately vote on they think should serve out the remainder of their term, which would be until January of 2023 (the next election for the MD General Assembly is 2022). Whoever is chosen by these members will then be sent over to the Governor for his approval, and that member is then seated.

The craziness that is likely to take place is, it is likely that the members of the state central committee will appoint a current state delegate to fill the seat of the retiring state senator, meaning that if that were to occur, they would then have to do the process all over again in the next 30-days, filling the now vacant House seat for the delegate chosen to become the state senator. And it appears that in the case of Senator Nathan-Pulliam, the front-runners appear to be Delegate(s) Keith Haynes and Charles Sydnor. Therefore, if either one of them is appointed to that seat, they would then see someone chosen to fill their state delegate seat, giving newly elected Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones her own set of headaches in having to move folks around.

So it appears that us political junkies, besides the pending special election surrounding the congressional seat vacated by the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, now have two more things to focus on over the coming weeks. Not to mention also looking at the upcoming election for MD Democratic Party Chair later this week on Saturday, especially following the announcement by interim chairman Senator Cory McCray about the financial fiasco that has occurred over the past year under the leadership of outgoing chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings and her hand-picked Executive Director Ben Smith. (An article regarding this matter is coming soon!)

So sit back, kick up your feet and grab a cold one (beer or soda), or grab a glass of your favorite wine, because this here thing is about to get real interesting. And DMVDailyNews will be on the ground giving you all the latest information regarding it all.

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