Talmadge Branch couldn’t contain his excitement for longtime colleague and friend Del. Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County chosen unanimously as Maryland Speaker of the House.
Even while on the House of Delegates floor, the Baltimore City delegate wanted to smoke a cigar.
“This is historic,” said Branch, also the House majority whip. “I have nothing but joy for this. I was blinking back tears. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Jones, 64, was elected as the state’s first woman and first African American elected to the position May 1. She will succeed her mentor, the late Michael Busch, who held the seat for 16 consecutive years until his death on April 7.
Jones, who had served as speaker pro tem since 2003, said she understands the historic moment, but it will take some time to sink in.
“This is all new because I thought one way when I left [home] and came to Annapolis [last week],” she said. “I’m probably going to take a deep breath.”
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jones’ selection made her the third Black woman in the nation chosen as a statewide presiding officer.
Daniel De Simone, a spokesman for the center, said Jones is currently the only Black woman nationwide to sit as a state House speaker. Crisanta Duran, 38, was the first Latina elected in 2017 for the same position in Colorado.
“In Maryland, this is incredibly historic,” said Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Maryland. “Giving everything that is happening in Baltimore, this is great news for the state, especially the Baltimore region.”
Jones actually stepped out the race for House speaker and put her support behind Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville.
But when the House Democratic Caucus couldn’t corral the 71 votes needed to select either Davis or Del. Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore City, lawmakers decided to ensure all members chose a Democrat in Jones. The caucus meet for more than four hours to finally reach a consensus on Jones.
“[Davis and McIntosh] could’ve went on longer and seen if the other one would’ve given in, but they didn’t,” Eberly said. “You absolutely have to give credit to the two of them for recognizing that this wouldn’t be resolved in their favor.”
Because of a divide among the Democrat Party to select a new speaker, Eberly said one of Jones’s first jobs will be to “soothe those hurt feelings.”
Jones, a mother of two sons, graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She maintains her Baltimore City roots as a member of the United Bethel African American Episcopal Church.
Jones became the first person from the Baltimore region to lead the House since Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) served as a delegate in 1986.
“Adrienne is a friend and has worked her way up through the years, building alliances statewide and showing her skills in getting things done to better our state and local communities,” Cardin said in a statement posted on social media. “Her historic election as the first female and first African-American speaker makes this moment even more meaningful.”
Jones said she will help provide a focus on regional concerns affecting the Baltimore region, but plans to visit other areas.
Jones will make one of her first public appearances Thursday, May 9 at an “after-session” fundraiser at Lake Presidential in Mitchellville with Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro.
“I know Baltimore region best. I grew up there,” she said. “Other areas are not going to be neglected. I’m a visual person. I like to go out to areas … and [hear] persons tell me about it.”