May 2 (UPI) -- Maryland lawmakers have elected Adrienne Jones as the state speaker of the House of Delegates -- making her the first African American and the first woman to ascend to the post.
Before selecting Jones, lawmakers were considering a ballot that included only delegates Dereck E. Davis, who is also black, and Maggie McIntosh, who is openly gay. Jones dropped out of the race last week to support Davis, but emerged Wednesday as the surprise winner by unanimous vote. Lawmakers chose Jones as a compromise candidate after they failed to reach a consensus on Davis or McIntosh.
"Wow," Jones said. "I didn't think I would be here when I left my house this morning."
"You were willing to step aside for me," Davis said, "and I'm honored to step aside for you."
Jones received a standing ovation after her election. She succeeds longtime speaker Michael Busch, who died unexpectedly last month. He'd served in the position since 2003.
"Delegate Jones has been a key House leader on issues including education, health, and environment for years, and is a natural successor to speaker Busch," Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. "I congratulate her and look forward to continuing to partner with her in the future."
Nationally, her victory makes Jones the third African-American woman elected as a presiding officer in a state legislature, according to the Center for Women and Politics. Karen Bass, now a U.S. congresswoman, became the first chosen as a state speaker in 2008.
"The election of our first African-American and first female Speaker marks a proud and historic moment for our state," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. "It is also a moment of great opportunity; Adrienne has pledged to be a Speaker for all delegates, and that is exactly the kind of bipartisan, collaborative spirit our state needs right now."