Name: Keiffer Jackson Mitchell, Jr.
Occupation: Delegate, District 44 (Baltimore)
Things seem like they’re really picking up in Annapolis.
We’re getting into the busy time. This is the time where you have to check in on any legislation in 15 minute intervals. Things change very quickly, with crossover coming.
Can you explain crossover?
All the House bills have to be sent over to the Senate and all the Senate bills have to be sent to the House [by Monday, March 25]…and then if it’s a Senate bill, the House has to have a hearing, and it’s the same on the other side.
If a bill doesn’t make it to the other house by crossover is it dead?
It might as well be. There are rules where you could get it, but those are definitely extraordinary circumstances. So this time gets busy, and then if there’s any amendments to the legislation, any change in the other house, it comes back and you have to approve it. This is when the craziness really starts, up until “Sine Die” [the last day of session].
I always say this is the time where the lobbyists earn their money, they’re all behind the scenes now trying to kill bills. You always have to keep an eye on your legislation about now.
You only have 90 days to get things done. Things get pressurized. There are all kinds of maneuvers committees can do, individuals can do, to gum up the process. They can do special orders, where an individual can stand up and have a bill held for purposes of amending it, or they can just quietly talk to a committee chair and get them to keep it in the drawer, to marinate it a little bit. As a freshman legislator, that’s what one chairman told me about my bill, “Let it marinate.” You know, it’s still marinating.
How many years have you been a legislator?
This is my third year. Before that I was a Baltimore city councilman for 10 years, ran for mayor in 2007 and lost. I’m the fourth in my family to be in politics.
What was that like?
It was great. I had my Uncle Parren in Congress, I had my Uncle Clarence who was a state senator for 24 years. I can remember every spring break coming down to Annapolis and running through the halls and the tunnels down here, when I was as young as eight years old…and I always wanted to be a page but I never had the grades for it. Later, I got to be a White House intern. That was ‘94, with the Clinton administration.
What did you do?
I worked in the East Wing, in the Senate Liaison Office…back then, interns, you had your pass and the color of your pass said what we had access to, and we were given instructions to be mindful of wearing our passes out at the infamous D.C. happy hours. But my buddies, we always wore our passes out, so we could pick up girls.
Did it work?
Yeah, it worked pretty good. We’d all wear our badges and talk big like we knew stuff and girls would say, “yeah right,” and we’d ask, “Do you want to go see the White House?” See, we had 24/7 access. All we had to do then was call ahead and give them the girl’s Social Security number so they could run it and make sure she wasn’t a threat. So we could show them behind the scenes. It was a great way to meet women. But then I got reprimanded…I was quietly pulled aside and told, “You can’t bring girls into the Oval Office no matter how good looking they are.” So that was that.
Have you always wanted to be in politics?
No, actually, my dad was a doctor, I wanted to be like him. What changed that was my C grade in chemistry…and I used to go on rounds with him sometimes-he’s a gastroenterologist…and I like to eat, but I don’t like to see what’s inside me. So I went away to college and I became a poly sci major. At Emory, I took a class on Congress and I got really into it, you know, I grew up with this and I liked to discuss the ins and outs of it. Jimmy Carter used to come and talk to our classes, and I was completely enthralled. But what I really like about politics is all the different relationships you have, with people from all walks of life.
Do you think politics in Annapolis are especially relationship-based?
Oh, yeah. I always take my uncle’s advice, “Never take politics personally, because your enemy today is your vote tomorrow.” I’ve had bills on life support that I’ve seen come back from the dead because I went to Main Street and had a beer with someone or went to Harry Browne’s and I stayed till late at night.
That’s my uncle again, “You always want to be at the meeting after the meeting.” He said, if the chairman goes, you go, if the chairman has another drink you have another drink and if you don’t come home till four in the morning it’ll be worth it. But it goes both ways of course, because if they’re against you, you’ll know from the beginning. That’s why I keep the Listerine on my desk.
I have been known not to have the cleanest mouth. And if I do say something too rude, then I’ve washed it out. It reminds me of what my mom used to do. And if someone comes into my office and swears, I’ll say, “Hey man, we have free speech but you can’t talk like that.” It’s here just in case.