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Md. Senator Known for Putting People First

"She was one of the most honest people you'd ever meet," he said. "She was devoted to the county and to civil rights, and she made a big difference in Prince George's County."

Britt was also widely respected outside of Prince George's. During her first term in office, former Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan strongly considered her as a running mate before he dropped out of the race for governor.

"It was clear she was coming into her own," said state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's). "The legislative arena is one filled with people with sharp elbows. She was the antithesis of that. She was warm, caring, honorable, principled and fair."

Last week, the county delegation unanimously reelected her as chairwoman. She also served as the assistant deputy majority leader in the Senate.

Britt, a lead Senate sponsor on a bill that granted voting rights to ex-felons, was expected to lead the effort to legalize same-sex marriage this session. Her death devastated the state's leading gay rights group.

"She taught us to keep the faith, never to waiver from our commitment to a cause and to speak truth to power, no matter what obstacles stand in our way," said David Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland.

Britt was the second member of the General Assembly to die suddenly in the past two months. Montgomery Del. Jane E. Lawton, 63, died of an apparent heart attack in November. As in Lawton's case, a successor to serve out the remainder of Britt's term will be chosen by the local Democratic Central Committee and confirmed by O'Malley, committee Chairman Terry N. Speigner said.

"We have time to deal with the process," Speigner said. "Right now, we have to deal with the human side of this tragic situation."

Leading contenders for the position were said to include Harrington, as well as the three delegates who represent Britt's Senate district, Jolene Ivey, Doyle L. Niemann and Victor R. Ramirez. All four said it was too early to discuss whether they would be interested in the seat.

Another possible candidate for the seat is former delegate Rushern L. Baker III, whom legislative leaders had in mind when they drew the boundaries of Britt's district. He decided to forego the state Senate in favor of a run for county executive in 2002 and has been pursuing a run to succeed Johnson as county executive in 2010.

"At this point, I have no interest in the Senate seat," Baker said yesterday, adding that he was shocked and saddened to hear of Britt's death.

Britt, who served on the county's Democratic Central Committee, was elected to the Senate in 2002. She was a retired human resources manager for Giant Food.

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