Session sets up some for future stardom
Only a handful of legislators in Annapolis hold leadership positions or committee chairmanships, but it doesn't take a lofty title for someone's political stock to be on the rise.
"Sometimes, you don't get the opportunity to be in a position to swing at the tough pitch," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis.
Every session produces a fresh crop of up-and-comers. Many of them are enhancing their legislative stature while bolstering their political credentials for a future run at higher office.
"We've developed a cadre of leaders around us that are capable talents, that we are nurturing and encouraging to take leadership opportunities whenever we feel it appropriate," said House Minority Leader Christopher B. Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown.
We spoke with members of leadership and aides from both parties to identify legislators who could be heard from in years to come:
Sen. Robert J. Garagiola
(D-Dist. 15) of Germantown
In his second term, Garagiola has ascended to deputy majority leader in the Senate, where colleagues say he has emerged as his own man.
This year, Garagiola bucked many of his Democratic colleagues — including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach — on a bill to re-regulate electricity providers.
"I think that showed a lot of self-confidence," said Senate Majority Leader Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Dist. 12) of Columbia.
He's won kudos from Republicans for his work on pro-business issues, such as a bill to make health insurance in the small-group market more affordable for small businesses.
Garagiola is regarded as a potential Senate president if he sticks around long enough. Some say he's an ideal successor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, should the congressman run for U.S. Senate.
Del. Guy J. Guzzone
(D-Dist. 13) of Columbia
The first-termer may still be a relative newbie in Annapolis, but he's no stranger to politics.
He got his feet wet on Capitol Hill under then-Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and served two terms as a Howard County Council member, including four years as chairman, before making the leap to the legislature.
This year, Busch said he shined as a key voice on the House Appropriations Committee's Education and Economic Development Subcommittee and as a member of the EMS work group, on which he headed up the procurement issue.
"I've learned over the years that sometimes it's not about putting in a lot of bills," he said. "To me, it's about using the budget process to accomplish goals."
Guzzone said he plans to run for another term in the House, but doesn't have any long-term political goals. Observers see him as a possible successor to Howard County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman (D), a position that he conceded being interested in.
Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Dist. 37B) of Newcomb
At just 31 years old, Haddaway-Riccio has long been considered one of the GOP's rising stars.
Some see her as an ideal candidate for the 1st Congressional District. She's the daughter of an Eastern Shore waterman, boasts a strong environmental record, owns a graphic design company and is a fiscal conservative who has strong crossover appeal.
Her composed presence within the GOP caucus and her strong debating skills on the House floor have earned kudos. She also has won plaudits for her advocacy of women's issues and her promotion of rural broadband.
"Jeannie's potential is unlimited in the caucus," Shank said. "Jeannie's star is uneclipsed. She can go as far as she wants to go."
Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke
(R-Dist. 31) of Pasadena
Kipke emerged this year by becoming more vocal on the floor.
With Del. Donald B. Elliott (R-Dist. 4B) of New Windsor partially sidelined by the death of his wife, House Republican leaders tapped Kipke to take over as the party's ranking member on the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
His floor work included offering amendments and a motion to recommit to committee the controversial lawful status bill on licensing drivers.
Behind the scenes, Kipke worked with committee and party colleagues and business leaders at "making sure bad bills don't come to the floor in the first place" and making others "less objectionable," Shank said.
"That shows some markings of some real leadership talent and some real rising-star potential in the caucus."
Kipke also was the lead sponsor in passing a bill establishing a Maryland Commission on Autism that had broad bipartisan support.
Sen. Catherine E. Pugh
(D-Dist. 40) of Baltimore
Pugh raised her profile in 2009, emerging with Garagiola as an eloquent voice against re-regulation on the Senate Finance Committee.
A deputy majority whip in her first term, Pugh has quietly made friends in both parties, leading some to name her as a dark-horse candidate for Senate president some day, as a mayoral candidate in Baltimore or as a potential successor to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Dist. 7) of Baltimore.
"She works hard for what she wants and doesn't give up, but at the same time is a very pleasant person," Kasemeyer said. "That's a great combo to have."
Pugh has emerged as a champion of her constituents, successfully sponsoring bills on minority business enterprise.
"I certainly have developed more and more respect for her every year," said Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman (R-Dist. 9) of West Friendship.
Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr.
(R-Dist. 36) of Elkton
Always a big voice for Republicans on the House floor, the House Minority parliamentarian found new ways to stand out in 2009, including questioning the governor during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a death penalty repeal bill and delivering an emotional account of his personal experience with domestic violence during a floor debate.
"Delegate Smigiel is a very forceful floor presence," O'Donnell said of the second-termer. "He's very knowledgeable as an attorney. He has the ability to cut through a lot of the fluff."
Smigiel is being floated as a likely state senator candidate should E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton run for Congress in 2010, as is widely expected.