2008 General Assembly

Key Figures on the Legislative Front Lines

Stories by Lisa Rein, John Wagner and Philip Rucker, Washington Post Staff Writers

Up-and-Comer

Del. Justin D. Ross
(Courtesy Del. Justin Ross)

For Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince George's), the best part of his leadership role might well be its title: chief deputy majority whip.

"That's got to be the coolest title in Annapolis," Ross said.

At 31, Ross is an ambitious up-and-comer hungry to make his mark at the State House. During the special session in the fall, Ross won kudos for rounding up votes among his rank-and-file colleagues for key bills.

"I do what the speaker tells me to," Ross said. "The leadership has a strategy, and they ask me to help go get votes for them. But I can't tell you my trade secrets."

Ross said he hopes to sponsor legislation on criminal justice, including bills about the treatment of drug abusers and ex-felons. He also is interested in laws that promote economic development in low-income communities.

As Ross enters his sixth year in the House of Delegates, his future seems bright. The real estate agent from Greenbelt says he is eyeing a run for Prince George's County executive. Someday, he would like to serve in Congress, too.

"But I'm 31 years old, so I've got a little time," Ross said, laughing.

-- Philip Rucker

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