Notes: A Major Retirement, a Major Endorsement and a Major New Group
By Josh Kurtz
Del. Sheila Hixson (D), a trailblazer for women in Annapolis and a savvy lawmaker with a long list of legislative accomplishments, announced Tuesday night that she will not run for re-election.
The announcement was the culmination of a tribute to Hixson’s life and 43-year legislative career at Montgomery College in Takoma Park.
“I will not be running for office the next term,” the former longtime chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee told the crowd of political and community leaders, students and activists. “It’s been a great run and I couldn’t have done it without you.”
The program opened with former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) strumming on the guitar and singing “Oh Danny Boy” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
“I have so much respect for the ethic and hard work of this woman,” said O’Malley, who jokingly referred to himself as “The artist formerly known as the governor.”
A cavalcade of political stars followed – U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, House Speaker Mike Busch, state Attorney General Brian Frosh, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, the District 20 legislative delegation, and a majority of County Council members. Several others spoke about Hixson in a tribute video.
“All of the progressive issues in the state of Maryland, all started with Sheila Hixson,” Busch observed.
Hixson, 84, who represents a Silver Spring-Takoma Park district, was an early advocate for women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights. She was at the forefront of major health care policy and school funding debates. She was also a steely inside player who brought home the bacon, mentored younger legislators and is famous in Annapolis for her annual St. Patrick’s Day party.
“There will never come an end to the good you have done,” Frosh told her.
Hixson also had national political ties through her lobbying work and her connections to the labor movement. At Democratic National Conventions dating back to 1968, Hixson was part of an elite group of party stalwarts that controlled special tickets that they gave away as political favors.
Tuesday night’s event served as a fundraiser for the Warrior Canine Connection, a charity that enables military veterans to train service dogs for their fellow veterans. A few dogs were in attendance, and at the end of the night the District 20 delegation — sans Hixson — dished up bowls of ice cream to the attendees.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Hixson told the crowd. “I don’t know what to say. The most exciting part of tonight is to see you all.”
While Hixson’s retirement had been anticipated since she gave up the Ways & Means gavel this year and became chairman emerita, her announcement Tuesday officially kicks off the race to succeed her.
Besides incumbents Dels. David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins, at least three other Democrats are running: attorney Fatmata Barrie, professional mediator Lorig Charkoudian, and Howard University business professor Darian Unger.
Political Boost for Indian-Americans
Here’s a development that could aid at least a few political candidates in Maryland: a new nonprofit organization called the Indian American Impact Fund that will focus on electing Indian-American candidates for political office. The group will have an affiliated 527 organization that will endorse candidates and spend money on races.
Raj Goyle, a former Kansas state representative who ran unsuccessfully for Congress and later was a prominent fundraiser for President Obama, is a co-founder of the new group.
The American Indian Impact Fund plans to raise money and is currently tracking several dozen candidates, including those running for governor and Congress. It’s possible, for example, that Del. Aruna Miller (D), who is seeking the 6th District congressional seat, and former Obama administration official Krishanti Vignarajah (D), who is running for governor, could wind up with endorsements and financial help from the group.
“Despite rapid growth and professional success, Indian Americans are conspicuously underrepresented in elected office,” the new group says on its website. “Given the emergence of regressive and xenophobic policies and rhetoric, Indian American political power is more important than ever. For years, our community has lacked the infrastructure to support Indian American leaders interested in elected office and public service; it’s critical we lay this groundwork now to allow future generations to succeed.”
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Tuesday endorsed state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D) for governor.
“Rich’s history of success in passing smart and progressive public policy — including his leadership role in making the freedom to marry the law of the land in Maryland — makes him the obvious choice for Marylanders,” said Victory Fund President & CEO Aisha Moodie-Mills. “And while there have been other LGBTQ candidates for Governor in Maryland, he is the first to receive our endorsement.”
Madaleno hailed the endorsement.
“Though I’m running for office to drive real change and make a positive difference in the lives of every single Marylander, I’m particularly excited to be a role model for other LGBTQ individuals and anyone who sees barriers to achieving their dreams,” he said.