The Maryland House of Delegates set two historic precedents Wednesday, when it selected Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne Jones to be Speaker of the House.
Jones is the first woman, and first African American to become speaker, one of the most powerful political positions in the state.
Jones' selection was a dramatic surprise. She turned out to be a compromise choice. Democrats, who control the legislature, were split between Delegate Maggie McIntosh, of Baltimore, and Prince Georges County Delegate Dereck Davis. Just last week, Jones had taken herself out of the running for House Speaker, throwing her support behind Davis.
Jones was approached by McIntosh and Davis to step back in and become House Speaker, following hours of debate Wednesday in the Democratic caucus.
Montgomery County Delegate Kumar Barve is calling the turn of events "the most incredible thing I've seen" in 28 years in the House.
Jones, 64, is a graduate of Lansdowne High School and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She was appointed to the House in 1997, serving Baltimore County's 10th district. She ran successfully for a full term the following year. She has served as Speaker Pro Tem since 2003.
In that role, she ran the House of Delegates in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session when Speaker Michael Bush was hospitalized with pneumonia. Busch died April 7.
The vote on the House floor was unanimous, as all Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for Jones. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke congratulated Jones on becoming speaker.
"She is someone we know we can work with, and will want to work with us," Kipke said.
Earlier in the day, the House Republicans had voted unanimously to back Dereck Davis.
Kipke said in a statement after that meeting Republicans were “mindful of the historic opportunity that this is for Maryland and are excited to cast our votes for who would be Maryland's first African American Speaker.”
In a second statement, Kipke congratulated Jones “on her historic election to Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.”
He said his caucus “is proud to have been a critical piece in this historic election and we offer heartfelt congratulations to the new Speaker of the House.”
Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, offered his congratulations as well.
"Adrienne has pledged to be a speaker for all delegates, and that is exactly the kind of bipartisan, collaborative spirit our state needs right now," Hogan said.
Senate President Mike Miller said in a congratulatory message that Jones “has been a key House leader on issues including education, health, and environment for years, and is a natural successor to Speaker Busch.”
And Baltimore’s Acting Mayor Jack Young called Jones a “highly effective legislator and a first-class manager” who, in the spirit of Busch, would “serve as a great coach, advancing the legislative agenda of the state of Maryland and our beloved City of Baltimore.”