Josh Kurtz: The Retiring Kind

By Josh Kurtz

One of my prized possessions is a poison pen note I received eight years ago from Gary Ackerman, who was then a congressman from New York.

I was the politics editor at Roll Call, and I had included Ackerman, a flamboyant guy who was famous for living on a house boat called The Unsinkable (it sank), for wearing a white carnation in his suit jacket lapel every day, and for the New York deli feast he provided his colleagues annually, in an article for the paper about House members who might be retiring in 2006.

“Dear Fiction Editor of Roll Call: I am anything but retiring,” the letter said in its entirety.

OK, so I was off by six years — Ackerman finally hung it up last year. But several insiders who were watching incumbents’ fundraising, political changes in their districts, and their overall demeanor suggested at the time that Ackerman deserved to be on the list of possible retirees.

So here we go again. Let’s take a look at Maryland state senators and members of the House of Delegates who belong on a retirement watch list ahead of the 2014 elections. These are people who, given their fundraising pace, or changes to their district lines, or tepid levels of political activity, suggest that they’re not coming back — regardless of what they may say publicly.

But first, to review.

Howard County Sen. James Robey (D) and Harford County Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) are retiring outright. Montgomery County Sen. Rob Garagiola (D) is retiring on Sept. 1. Howard County Sen. Allan Kittleman (R), Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh (D) and Harford County Sen. Barry Glassman (R) are running for higher office.

In the House, Western Maryland Del. LeRoy Myers (R) has said he doesn’t plan to come back, though he has not ruled out the possibility of running for another office. Del. Galen Clagett (D) is running for mayor of Frederick this year — but even if he loses, most observers don’t expect him to run for the House again.

Other delegates who have announced so far that they are moving on: Del. Wade Kach (R) is running for Baltimore County Council; Del. Gail Bates (R) is running for the Howard County Senate seat that Kittleman is giving up; Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D) is challenging Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell (D) in a Baltimore city and county district; Baltimore County Del. Emmit Burns (D) is retiring; Baltimore County Del. Jon Cardin (D) is running for attorney general; all three District 12 delegates — Jimmy Malone (D), Steven DeBoy (D) and Liz Bobo (D) — are retiring; Del. Guy Guzzone (D) is running for Robey’s Senate seat; Del. Brian Feldman (D) hopes to be appointed to Garagiola’s Senate seat; Del. Bill Frick (D) is running for attorney general and Del. Susan Lee (D) is running for Frosh’s Senate seat in Montgomery’s District 16; District 20 Del. Heather Mizeur (D) is running for governor; Prince George’s Del. Aisha Braveboy (D) is running for attorney general; Anne Arundel Del. Ron George (R) is running for governor; and Anne Arundel Del. Steve Schuh (R) is running for county executive.

That’s already a pretty substantial list. But it’s going to grow. Who else should we be looking out for?

Not many, on the Senate side. Baltimore County Sen. Norm Stone (D) — who was elected to the House a few weeks after the Cuban Missile Crisis and then joined the Senate while LBJ was president — is a lock to retire, and Del. John Olszewski Jr. (D) is almost certain to replace him.

Several veteran senators say they plan to run, but as of now the one who probably bears the most watching is Montgomery County Sen. Jennie Forehand (D). Forehand, who was elected to the House in 1978 and the Senate in 1994, is almost certain to face a nasty primary challenge from Del. Luiz Simmons (D) — this, on the heels of the nasty primary challenge she faced from ex-Del. Cheryl Kagan (D) in 2010. And Kagan hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running again as well.

Forehand had $20,000 in her campaign account in January after raising no money last year. Simmons had less money on hand — $11,000 — but at least he showed a fundraising pulse by raising $10,000 last year. Forehand is still telling people she plans to run. But she’ll be 78 next year and may not have an appetite for a fight.

On the House side, let us stipulate that any number of delegates could still wind up running for other offices. Some are expected to declare for Senate and haven’t done so. Others are eyeing higher office and still others could wind up as candidates for lieutenant governor.

That said, here are our top candidates for retirement from the House, in alphabetical order — even though they haven‘t publicly revealed their plans yet:

— Eastern Shore Del. Rudy Cane (D): He’ll be 79 next year, and has apparently groomed Wicomico County Councilwoman Sheree Sample Hughes (D) to succeed him.

— Anne Arundel County Del. Bob Costa (R): One of Democrats’ favorite Republicans, thanks to his vote for gay marriage and some other measures favored by the majority — but that doesn’t help him any in a Republican primary. Seems ready to go.

— Anne Arundel Del. Don Dwyer (R): Can anyone predict what this guy is going to do?

— Frederick and Carroll County Del. Don Elliott (R): He’ll be 82 in the fall and has had a good long run, having first been elected in 1986. Thanks to redistricting, he’s been thrust into a district with four Republican incumbents, so it makes sense for one of them to step aside.

— Prince George’s Del. Jim Hubbard (D): Redistricting has not been kind to the 22-year House veteran. He may opt for retiring rather than a bitter internecine struggle with Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D).

— Anne Arundel Del. Mary Ann Love (D): Looks like Love, who was appointed to the House in 1993 and is 73 now, may be at the end of the line. She raised just $1,250 last year, and the senator from her district, Ed DeGrange (D), is said to be recruiting potential replacements. Del. Ted Sophocleus (D), who represents the same district, is not terribly ambulatory and is another retirement possibility.

— Baltimore City Del. Brian McHale (D): People are starting to sense that McHale, a unique, conscientious lawmaker who also works as a longshoreman, may be ready to retire. He raised less than $3,000 last year and had $32,000 in the bank in January, and at least two ambitious challengers are gearing up to run in his district: attorney Brooke Lierman and educator Bill Romani, who was runner-up in the 2010 primary.

— Baltimore County Del. Sonny Minnick (D): He’s 80 now, and it’s probably time to “move the previous question” on his colorful career.

— Southern Maryland Del. Tony O’Donnell (R): Deposed as House minority leader, spent after raising $172,000 for the privilege of being slaughtered by Steny Hoyer last year, he isn’t showing many signs of political life. He could run a credible campaign against Sen. Roy Dyson (D) if he chose to, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely. O’Donnell had just $2,800 in his state campaign account in January after raising less than $2,000 last year. Dyson raised just $1,600 but had $31,000 in the bank.

— Washington County Del. Andrew Serafini (R): He has been there for five years, and apparently doesn‘t like it.

Maybe not everyone belongs on this list. Probably other delegates do. If anyone objects to being included here, please follow Congressman Ackerman’s lead.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

White Man’s Burden

Brown-Ulman Pre-nup Dictated by State Election Law

‘Groundhog Day’ in Montgomery County

Republicans At the Starting Gate

Gansler Hires Campaign Manager

Will 2014 Be a Republican Year Nationally — and in Maryland?

Back to the Future