10-25-2020 Women to Watch - Flipbook - Page 27
Maryland is developing a corps of female legislators,
but representation at top political levels lags
By Talia Richman
drienne Jones made “double history” last year
to become the rst woman and rst African
American to preside over Maryland’s House of
Delegates. For the new House speaker, it wasn’t enough
to break barriers on her own.
She selected Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, the only House
Democrat and the only person of color from the Eastern
Shore, as her second-in-command. She appointed two women to be deputy speaker pro tem and assistant speaker pro
tem. Six of seven standing committees now have a woman
serving as either chair or vice chair.
Imbued in Jones’ style is the motto of, “Each one, reach
one. Each one, teach one.” While women are historically
underrepresented in both Maryland and national elected
leadership, this kind of mindset could help strengthen the
bench of political players who are primed to ascend to powerful roles.
“The fact we have a woman now as a top gure is an
encouraging sign,” said Melissa Deckman, a political science
professor at Washington College in Chestertown. “The bench
is denitely deeper for women candidates in the future.”
After Republican President Donald Trump’s election,
there was an explosion of women seeking ofce. The biggest historical marker has been U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of
California joining Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential ticket,
becoming the rst Black and South Asian women to accept
a major party’s nomination for vice president.
The shift is apparent across local school boards, central
committees and county councils, too.
The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council
ipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, the same
year women won a majority of seats Howard County’s council. Prince George’s County elected its rst female executive
in 2018, and Carroll County choose a woman in 2018 to sit
on its Circuit Court bench for the rst time. In Baltimore’s
2020 Democratic primary, 30% of the City Council candidates were women, compared with 18% four years earlier.
Roughly 40% of state legislators are women in Maryland,
placing it sixth in the nation in terms of female representation, according to the Center for American Women and
Politics at Rutgers University.
While there has been a surge of Maryland women passing policy on the local level, there remains a dearth of leadership at the federal level. The state’s 10-member congres-
Adrienne A. Jones strikes the gavel on her first day presiding over Maryland’s House of Delegates. Jones is the first
woman and first person of color to serve as Maryland’s House speaker. FILE PHOTO BY DYLAN SLAGLE
WO M E N T O WAT C H