The Glover Report: A New Day in Maryland: Adrienne Jones Elected First African American, Female Speaker of the House

Photo: MD Republican Caucus heads to State House to announce support for Del. Derick Davis on Wednesday. These are the unsung heroes ultimately responsible for Adrienne Jones becoming the first African American Speaker of the House. Without their pressure, the Democrats would have gone with Del. Maggie McIntosh.

By Doni Glover, Publisher

I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more
if only they knew they were slaves.
– Harriet Tubman

(BALTIMORE – May 3, 2019) – The Afro reported that it was the only major news organization to endorse and, in essence, predict Adrienne Jones’ new ascension to Speaker of the House; they did, one could argue, speak it into existence. While this is true from a spiritual perspective, it didn’t quite manifest itself so simply on the physical plane. There’s a lot more to the story.

The truth of the matter is that it was the Maryland Republican Caucus that emerged the unsung hero from an Afrocentric perspective and forced the Democrats to do what should have been done all along: Elect an African American Speaker. Left to their own devices, black Democrats had nothing coming from our own Democratic party – even though the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LBCM) chose Delegate Derick Davis as their pick for the Speaker of the House. Please understand that in 439 sessions of the Maryland General Assembly, white males have always dominated both the State Senate and the House of Delegates.

However, and I am elated to say, this is a new day!

The broader Democratic Caucus voted three different times for Delegate Maggie McIntosh over Delegate Derick Davis; 58-40 was the tally each time. However, while Davis could have taken the vote to the floor where he would have won before the entire body of the House of Delegates (Democrats and Republicans), he humbly decided to return the favor from last week and step aside for Jones – if Maggie did. If you recall, Jones stepped aside for Davis last Friday.

Davis could have just taken his 40 Black Caucus votes and joined with the 42 votes from the Republican Caucus and slam dunked the victory. I can’t say I would have resisted that. Sure, there would be repercussions. However, it would have further changed the game. Be that as it may, we are still winners!

What was not widely reported is the pressure put on African American delegates in particular to vote Democrat-first in support of McIntosh. I’ve heard that even Martin O’Malley was working in the background to sway black elected officials. Although white people vacillate between parties without consequence all the time, blacks are somehow shamed into voting solely for Democrats. Frankly, I do not understand this thinking. It gets us nothing but a seat at the back of the bus.

Several African American delegates, it should be noted and never forgotten, put their support behind McIntosh – forsaking the Black Caucus’ selection and, consequently, found themselves on the wrong side of history. For the record, the LBCM “is an organization of fifty legislators who dedicate themselves to the mission of ensuring that Black people in the great state of Maryland are equally protected and benefited by the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as afforded by the United States Constitution.”

I wonder, what will they tell their grandchildren when asked where they stood in the struggle for African American equality in the Great State of Maryland?

Truthfully, I think it is shameful!

To be fair, several Baltimore Democrats looked purely at the significance of having Northeast Baltimore’s McIntosh as the new Speaker from a “regional” perspective. Others, I believe, were bullied. Having talked to some of those key supporters, their argument is that McIntosh was more likely to look out for Baltimore City. They exhibited very little faith in Davis’ likelihood to do right by Baltimore, probably because he has Republican allies in Annapolis. For some reason, that is considered wrong. They argued that McIntosh was a better choice over Davis, particularly because of a massive loss of population in Baltimore; they suggested that Baltimore’s influence in Annapolis is already waning and that we needed her strong presence.

From an African American perspective, Prince George’s County is now the big dog on the block. But, does that mean that Davis would have automatically slighted Baltimore? I gotta say, I have more faith in Jones and Branch’s decision-making skills than that. I have faith, also, in people like Black Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes, another black hero in Maryland. I am told that Delegate Cheryl Glenn, also, must be acknowledged for her consistent tenacity as a leader.

My thought is that Greater Baltimore and Prince George’s County – both with domineering black populations – have too much in common to not work together. History reminds me of how Baltimore and Prince George’s County black elected officials have historically cooperated – going back to the days when Clarence Mitchell, III and Tommie Broadwater, the black Godfather of Prince George’s politics, were in office. While some enunciate a difference because of the higher incomes for blacks in Prince George’s County, the truth is that Baltimore and Prince George’s have the two worst school systems in the state. We both have Minority Business Enterprise issues. And, we both have experience with mass incarceration, foreclosures, and critical health matters, like diabetes and hypertension.

So, while I do agree that Baltimore must have a key voice at the table, Baltimore and Prince George’s can never afford to forsake each other regardless of who is at the helm. Yes, I trust my brothers and sisters from Prince George’s County to continue to stand by our side. We need each other. We are all we’ve got! And anyone who gets in the way of that brotherhood is an impediment to black progress.

For the record, I am unapologetically black first. Politics comes second.

Can you imagine if Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, two of the most courageous Marylanders ever, had turned their backs on black folks for the sake of their own well-being and security? Can you imagine if Harriet didn’t risk her own freedom to save somebody else from the chains of slavery? Can you imagine Douglass being too afraid to speak up amongst New England abolitionists on behalf of hundreds of thousands of his people on Southern plantations? Can you imagine the message that would have sent to their brethren still oppressed, let alone future generations? Most assuredly, Tubman and Douglass, had they done so, would not be held in such high regard today.

In any event, was on the scene as the Republican Caucus emerged with vigor from their chamber on Wednesday to briskly head across the street to the State House for the final vote. That’s literally when the whole game changed and also where we caught up with Nicholaus R. “Nic” Kipke, the Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 2007 and also the Minority Leader in the House of Delegates.

Although he is not African American nor a Democrat, his caucus’ efforts cannot be overlooked. To hear Kipke unequivocally state how the Republican caucus had decided to – once again – be on the right side of history and support Davis, an African American for Speaker of the House, was simply music to this reporter’s ears.

Kipke represents Maryland District 31 including all of Pasadena, Brooklyn Park, and parts of Glen Burnie, Severna Park and Millersville.

When it was all said and done, it was the pressure from the Republican Caucus that forced the hand of Maryland Democrats to do what many believe the late Speaker, Michael Busch, would have wanted anyway. After all, he was Delegate Adrienne Jones’ mentor for years.

Question: What message is sent when one’s own party has consistently been on the wrong side of history, even as of late? What does it mean when the Democratic establishment does not support representatives from its most loyal voting demographic? What does it say when a dozen African Americans elected to represent the people in a former slave state fail to support one of their own for Speaker of the House?

Another question is begged. What message did the Maryland Democratic Party send to black folks overall this week? This is not your time? You’re not good enough? We need your vote but not your leadership? You’re not worthy? You’ll be whipped?

Harford County Delegate Mary Ann Lisante’s despicable “n—–“ comment immediately comes back to mind, I admit.

Frankly, the Democrats treat African Americans like a “side piece”. Consistently, too many white Democrats in Maryland demonstrate their putrid disdain for African American legislators and voters. While many are quick to point the finger at others, they are also in denial about their own racist ways. Further, African American political skill is grossly underestimated. As they say, ‘this is chess, not checkers.’

In 2002, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made the mistake of thinking African Americans were brainless and would blindly support her. Although she chose overnight Democrat Admiral Charles R. Larson as a running mate, an Arbutus-raised Republican Congressman named Bob Ehrlich chose Maryland’s first African American Lieutenant Governor as a running mate … and became the first Republican governor in 36 years. That man is Michael S. Steele, a great advocate for minority business in Maryland.

The same mistake was made by Democrats in 2014 when the current governor, Larry Hogan, chose former Secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services Boyd K. Rutherford, another black man, as his running mate … and won.

Both Steele and Rutherford have done well by African Americans in Maryland.

Steele, Rutherford and Davis are but three key instances where Republicans, not Democrats, helped empower African Americans. In short, Steele was the first black lieutenant governor. And Davis was on his way to being the first black Speaker. Meanwhile, the Maryland Democratic Party turned a blind eye.

In Matthew 26:34, it reads: “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

What, I ask you, is wrong with this picture? And when the Democrats do half-heartedly put up a black candidate, these candidates fail to address black issues. On the other hand, strong black candidates, like former Congressman Kweisi Mfume, do not get the same kind of support from the Maryland Democratic Party as, say, a Maggie McIntosh. Why? I was told that even former US Senator Barbara Mikulski was making phone calls for her.

Believe it or not, I am the biggest fan of a good love story. I don’t care what race it is. There is nothing, in my mind, more beautiful than two people in love with each other. I am also a big fan of loyalty. No, I’m not Jesus nor anywhere close to being perfect. But, I do love it when I see two people who are completely into each other, like my brother and his wife. They’ve been married for 51 years. Every time I see them or talk to them on the phone, I am just overjoyed. It’s indescribable to hear them laughing and joking and talking about their grandchildren’s latest accomplishments.

What I despise, though, is disloyalty. For example, I shy away from doing business with someone who is a known adulterer. My thought is that if a person is able to regularly cheat on a person they profess to love, then it is just a matter of time before that behavior spills over into our business dealings.

Call me what you want, including old-fashioned, but that’s just my thinking.

Similarly, the Democrats in Maryland consistently display the behavior of a cheater. The Democrats have painted a picture, for example, that under the leadership of then-Governor Martin O’Malley, a billion dollars in new school construction money came back to Baltimore City from efforts in Annapolis. Woopee! Although this sounds empowering on the surface, but this is not entirely honest. Many black kids won’t ever see any of that money.

For instance, in my beloved Sandtown, the Baltimore City Public School system is aiming to close schools. The reasoning is that Sandtown has lost significant population and therefore doesn’t need any new schools. Traditional thought suggests that when you close a school, you kill a community. At the end of my block, there is the former William Pinderhughes Elementary School which is now a citywide homeless shelter, thanks to former Mayor Catherine “No Clue” Pugh. That shelter, by the way, is in the midst of an open-air drug market that stems from Pennsylvania Avenue. In the decade plus since the school closed (one of the three elementary schools in Sandtown), the concentration of poverty, crime and addiction has escalated tremendously. Just last April, we had a string of fires that were started by addicts in vacant houses, according to community leaders who see the end of our community.

So, what does a billion dollars in new school construction money mean to my community again? Where we will soon be down to one elementary school? Not only do I live in a food desert, this is also an education desert reiterated by an endless stream of ex-offenders, the unemployed and addicts.

While Baltimore is majority African American, it is also 9-to-1 Democrat in a state that is 2-to-1 Democrat. Further, African Americans comprise 30% of the state’s population. Yet, despite the fact that African Americans consistently vote for Democrats, the needs of Baltimore’s black communities are consistently ignored. North and Charles gets developed overnight, but Penn-North looks like HBO’s The Wire. Why? Why does this continue to happen, even though we have a high percentage of African American elected officials? Why hasn’t politics translated into African American progress? Are we too busy carrying someone else’s agenda instead of our own?

Living just blocks from Penn-North, the epicenter of international media attention during the Freddie Gray Unrest of 2015, I can tell you that not a single thing has changed here since then, except a renovated Western District Police station. Harlem Park, just to our south, did get a new funeral home. Handcuffs and caskets for an already battered community? Really?

Question: Although then-Pres. Barack Obama sent billions to cities like Baltimore for investment, why wasn’t one red penny spent in Sandtown or East Baltimore where black folks still live? We all saw our so-called leaders up at Penn-North stunting for the television cameras, but what have they done in Sandtown and Penn-North since the riots?

Not a damn thing!

Actually, if anything, I have seen much evidence of Gov. Hogan’s Project CORE getting rid of vacants across the city. Granted, this is no small undertaking; however, it is nice to see the ball start rolling. When I look at the blight at Lanvale and Bradford in East Baltimore, it is refreshing to see Project CORE present and on the right track after five decades of benign neglect. I’ve known this area since I was 3; I’m now 53. Back then, my father’s first funeral home was located a block away at Patterson Park & Lanvale. Interestingly, that was 1968 and the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination were in full-effect.

The large-scale demolition of vacants is long overdue throughout the city. And who is leading the way? Well, it sure isn’t Martin O’Malley. Nope. It’s a Republican!

So, again, I ask: Why are we, as African Americans, so loyal to a party that consistently overlooks our needs and disrespects us – even when we are out in public? It looks like Maryland Democrats are moreso the “boogie man” than Maryland Republicans. Why?

Nonetheless, the political developments in Annapolis over the last two weeks have been awe-inspiring. I believe that the veil is being lifted from over our eyes. A key lesson is that if we continue to do business the old way, we will continue to get nothing. That is called insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Fortune favors the bold, and to me, that means that we have to move fearlessly forward. We cannot afford to whimper. We cannot afford to be faint at heart. We have to seize the moment!

Now, let me say: The hutzpah of African American Democrats, like Delegate Derick Davis, to consider getting assistance from the Republicans is not to be taken lightly. While Democrats hate this strategic move, this is exactly how African Americans must continue to think and act going forward.

Besides, siding with Maryland Republicans seems to be the only way we can get any respect around here.

When our own party treats us like a battered spouse and thinks it can pimp-slap us anytime it wants, we must dismiss them with the swiftness! Until the Maryland Democratic Party, under the alleged leadership of people like Congressman Elijah Cummings and his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (both African American), respects black people as it does white people, we must continue to let them know that we will drop them like a hot potato.

I am also reminded that Cummings’ wife, who is the Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party (talk about nepotism), threatened black Democrats to support McIntosh leading up to this week’s vote. Her Facebook memo to our black leaders was tasteless, disconcerting and foolish. She admonished grown men and women to act like slaves and sharecroppers in 2019 by voting for McIntosh over Davis – over 150 years since slavery ended.

This type of coonery must not be tolerated. African American voters must work now even harder to stay updated on the efforts of our dear legislators. When they do right, we must congratulate them. When they do wrong, we must properly correct them so that they never make such a mistake again.

In conclusion, I am eternally proud of Delegate Adrienne Jones. Her humility is to be celebrated and modeled across the world. I have watched her stick to her guns for years, even when I have doubted her. I now see she was simply being patient. To say the least, she has the determination of a honey badger, and her spirit is unstoppable. That morning, she was headed to Annapolis merely to cast a vote, not to be crowned the new Speaker. She deserves the honor and has faithfully earned the position. Congratulations, Madam Speaker!

Also, a huge level of respect goes to Delegate Talmadge Branch. While I’ve noted the heroic efforts of Jones, Davis, Barnes and Kipke, Branch’s leadership and contribution is to be eloquently written in the book of our story. He is a bona fide leader. This East Baltimore man went to Annapolis and demonstrated character, fortitude, and integrity under relentless fire. He did not back down. He held his ground. And he is still … undefeated in counting the vote. Kudos!

Also, a great deal of thanks to the Black Press Corps in Maryland; the efforts of African American journalists who covered both last Friday’s Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland press conference at the Reginald Lewis Museum in Baltimore – as well as Wednesday’s historic vote, is not to be omitted. Without the phenomenal attention applied by the Black Press to ensure transparency, a different story may have unfolded. The Black Press helped keep the process honest, and that must be perpetually appreciated.

William Ford of the Washington Informer, publisher Hassan Giordano, Kenny Brown and George White of the Northwest Voice were there – front and center. Senior Journalist Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television also covered both historic occasions. Kudos to these brothers for telling the truth from our own perspective. I am, too, reminded that the mainstream press predicted McIntosh to win. Once again, they were wrong – just like they were about now-Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.