An abrupt end to a 24-year General Assembly career

After long record of service and more than a decade of living with Parkinson’s disease, Gordon plans to continue private practice, relax

Friday, April 28, 2006

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David S. Spence⁄The Gazette
Del. Michael R. Gordon looks back on his 24 years in the General Assembly: ‘‘It takes that long to learn what you’re doing.” He has been dealing with the effects of Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade. ‘‘I didn’t expect to have to retire at this point in my life.”

After more than two decades in the House of Delegates, Michael R. Gordon has decided to retire from the General Assembly this year.

Gordon, 58, has been living with Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade.

‘‘I didn’t expect to have to retire at this point in my life,” he said.

Twenty-four years of service may seem like a long time to some, but Gordon (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville quipped, ‘‘It takes that long to learn what you’re doing.”

Aside from the physical and cognitive disabilities that come with Parkinson’s, ‘‘Michael’s intellect is fine,” said his wife, Carol Gordon. ‘‘It’s as sharp as ever.”

Carol Gordon is a community activist who met her husband through their political involvement. She worked as one of his aides in Annapolis for three years after they were married in 1987.

‘‘I’ve always supported his political career, even though I’m a Republican,” she said.

Parkinson’s is a chronic, progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Common symptoms include tremors in the arms or legs, impaired mobility and muffled speech. It is not fatal.

Gordon plans to continue his private law practice. He also plans to take some time to relax and do nothing, he said, adding, ‘‘I’ll probably get bored after two weeks.”

‘‘After working two jobs for 24 years, it’s time to have some fun,” Carol Gordon said.

During his years in Annapolis, Gordon introduced 120 bills that became law. He was the sole primary sponsor of 57 pieces of legislation and co-sponsored 244 bills that were added to the law books. Gordon has held various leadership positions and now serves as House chairman of the Joint Spending Affordability Committee and chairman of the Tax and Revenue Subcommittee.

His district mates said they will miss his camaraderie.

‘‘It’s sad that a distinguished career like his has to end for this reason,” said Del. Kumar P. Barve (D) of Gaithersburg. ‘‘It will be good for his health not to have the stress of public life.”

Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D) of Rockville described how she once watched as he helped push one of her bills through the House in 24 hours.

‘‘It was a friendship that was sometimes better than family,” Forehand said.

Gordon was born in Silver Spring and has been a lifelong resident of the county. The political seed was planted when a teenage Gordon volunteered to work on the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign.

‘‘I could do this,” he thought, and the course was set.

He graduated from Towson State College, then from Georgetown University Law Center, and went into private practice in 1973. His bid for a House seat came almost 10 years later. He was first elected in 1982.

Gordon’s legislative career focused on consumer protection and tax reform.

‘‘For nine years, [Gordon] was vice chair of the Economic Matters Committee, and he and [House Speaker] Michael Busch ran the best committee in Annapolis,” Barve said.

Gordon freely shared his expertise with legislators, both new and seasoned, and was considered a mentor.

‘‘He basically taught me how to be a legislator,” Barve said. ‘‘He took me under his wing early in my career.”

Former District 17 delegate Cheryl C. Kagan shared a similar relationship with Gordon.

‘‘Mike was really wise about the legislative process, and he was helpful at coaching the rest of us as to the best ways to be effective on issues we cared about,” said Kagan, who served in Annapolis for eight years.

She praised his ability to form coalitions.

‘‘Mike really set a great example for making friends with and building strategic alliances with legislators from around the state.”

Gordon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1994, his wife said, but did not make a public announcement until December 2002.

Gordon felt he might be judged by his disability and not what he could still accomplish, Carol Gordon explained.

Gordon still has a lot to offer, his wife said.

‘‘He hopes that people will still seek his counsel and take advantage of this vast store of knowledge and working experience that he has.”