Karen Montgomery Informs Colleagues She Will Resign As State Senator From District 14
Del. Craig Zucker expected to succeed her, creating vacancy in House of Delegates
via Wikimedia Commons
With the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly just six weeks away, a shuffle within the county’s Annapolis delegation was triggered Thursday when state Sen. Karen Montgomery, D-Brookeville, informed her legislative colleagues that she will resign her seat.
The 80-year old Montgomery, who said that mounting problems with her eyesight had led to her decision to leave mid-term, is expected to be succeeded by Del. Craig Zucker in the state Senate. That, in turn, would set off a competition for Zucker’s current seat in the House of Delegates.
Montgomery, who suffers from macular degeneration, said she was driving home from a night meeting about a month ago when “I realized I couldn’t see very well.” She consulted with her ophthalmologist about the problem, leading to her decision to resign.
“I am absolutely fine except that my night vision sucks, and this job requires nothing but night meetings,” Montgomery said, emphasizing she is not suffering from any serious health problems.
Montgomery has represented District 14—which extends from Silver Spring north along the county’s eastern boundary to include Burtonsville, Damascus, Laytonsville and Olney—since 2003. She served two terms in the House of Delegates before moving to the state Senate following the 2010 election, when she narrowly ousted then-state Sen. Rona Kramer in the Democratic primary. Montgomery was re-elected to a second Senate term last year.
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Montgomery endorsed Zucker as her successor. Meanwhile, sources said that both Montgomery and County Executive Ike Leggett were lining up behind Pam Queen, a member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee, as Zucker’s successor in the House. But another Democratic committee member from District 14, Chris Bradbury, also indicated an interest in the prospective House vacancy when contacted Thursday.
Because Montgomery’s resignation will take place just under a year into her current four-year term, the 24 elected members of the Democratic Central Committee will recommend a replacement to Gov. Larry Hogan. If Zucker is then appointed to succeed Montgomery, the Democratic committee would make a recommendation to Hogan on a replacement for him. While Hogan is a Republican, he is compelled by Maryland Constitution to appoint a person of the same party as the prior occupant of the legislative seat.
With the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly looming, it was not clear how quickly the Democratic committee can move to recommend a replacement. While the Maryland Constitution gives the committee up to 30 days to recommend a replacement when a vacancy occurs—with the governor then required to make an appointment to the seat within 15 days after that—the bylaws of the Montgomery County Democratic committee mandate advance notice of any meeting called to vote on a recommended appointee. The bylaws also require that those seeking the appointment be allowed to appear and address the committee prior to the vote.
The county’s Democratic committee has a regular monthly meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, but it was not immediately clear whether the committee could take action on the vacancy that quickly—or be compelled to call a special meeting later in the month. Committee officials were consulting on the matter late Thursday.
Zucker, 40, did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but Montgomery said, “I hope he will replace me in my position. I know he’ll do a good job.” Zucker, a Brookeville resident, is a former Capitol Hill aide who worked for Comptroller Peter Franchot before being elected to the House of Delegates in 2010.
When vacancies occur within a district delegation, seniority often plays a role in determining the line of succession—and Zucker has served a couple of terms less than his District 14 colleague, Del. Anne Kaiser. But Kaiser is now majority leader of the House of Delegates, and regarded by some as potential candidate for House speaker in the future.
Queen, an Olney resident who is a professor of finance at Morgan State University in Baltimore, could not be reached for comment. The appointment of either her or Bradbury to fill a vacancy left by Zucker would place a third additional African-American member in the 32-member Montgomery County legislative delegation—which is comprised of 24 delegates and eight senators.
“I have strong ties to District 14, and it would be a great honor to serve,” said Bradbury who, like Queen, has served on the Democratic committee since 2010. “But my colleagues will decide that.” The 31-year old Bradbury works as a real estate agent.
Montgomery’s resignation follows a session during which she sponsored a two-year moratorium on so-called fracking. She has been active on environmental as well as education issues; she has an adult son who is autistic.
The avowedly liberal Montgomery has had an occasional maverick streak: She is currently the only supporter of the U.S. Senate bid of Prince George’s County Rep. Donna Edwards within a local state legislative delegation that has lined up solidly behind Montgomery County Rep. Chris Van Hollen for the job.
“I am very proud to have been a part of one of the country’s best, most thoughtful legislatures,” Montgomery said, while adding that she’s seen some legislators "hang on until everybody wishes they would either die or quit. And I am a proud woman and I do not wish to be in that category. So I thought ‘Leave while your reputation is still good’.”