The Maryland House of Delegates elected Del. Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) as its next speaker in a unanimous vote Wednesday, making her the first person of color and first woman to hold the role.
Jones, who is black, will serve as successor to the late Speaker Michael Busch, who died unexpectedly April 7.
She had previously dropped out of the race, and going into Wednesday, the only two candidates poised to take the gavel were delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s).
Either candidate would have marked a first for the position, as Davis is black and McIntosh is an openly gay woman. Since the formation of the legislature, all Maryland speakers have been white men.
Jones, who served as Busch’s deputy speaker for 16 years, became the first to announce her candidacy on April 10. She chose to drop out of the race and back Davis so that the Legislative Black Caucus would be united behind one candidate; Davis and McIntosh both announced their candidacy hours after Busch’s funeral on April 16.
At 10 a.m on Wednesday, both the Democratic and Republican Caucuses went into closed-door meetings to decide who they would be supporting in the election.
After debate, the Republican Caucus announced its unanimous support for Davis, but the Democrats remained divided between the candidates. Wanting to avoid a rift within the party, the delegates continued to debate until about 2:15 p.m.
Then, in a move that Jones said put the House’s unity “before their own ambition,” McIntosh and Davis separately approached the speaker pro tem to ask her to take the position, Jones said.
After over four hours of debate, the Democratic Caucus eventually decided to back Jones for speaker. She was nominated on the floor by McIntosh, with the motion seconded by Davis, and was ushered into the role with a unanimous vote.
“I didn’t think I would be here when I left my out of my house this morning,” Jones said when she took the chair on Wednesday.
In a tweet, Gov. Larry Hogan called Jones’ election a “proud and historic moment for our state” and praised the candidate for “pledging to be a Speaker for all delegates.”
“That is exactly the kind of bipartisan, collaborative spirit our state needs right now,” he wrote.