It was the day before Valentine’s Day in Annapolis, and Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) had just surprised all the women in his chamber with an elaborate gift — jewelry boxes designed by his chief of staff.
“Mr. President,” said Senate Majority Leader Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore), standing on the Senate floor Friday morning wearing a bright red dress and pearls, “on behalf of all of the women of the Senate, we would like to thank you for our wonderful gift. It’s always something very special, and we want you to know that we appreciate that.”
The female senators — who are outnumbered nearly 3-to-1 in the chamber by their male counterparts — had been shopping for Valentine’s Day too. Sitting on the desks of each male senator was a small, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, compliments of their female colleagues.
“Just a token of our love for all of you,” Pugh explained, before leading the female caucus to the front to present Miller with a much larger box of sweets.
“Ladies, come on up here!” Miller said, arranging everyone for a group photo. “There should be nine, I guess. Is that correct? Nine? Huh?”
(It’s actually 13, thanks to the last election. And 34 men.)
The Valentine’s gift exchange is one of many traditions in the Senate. Miller is another. He first joined the chamber in 1975 and became president in 1987, making him the longest serving senate president in the country.
Tradition notwithstanding, at least one woman senator appeared uncomfortable with Friday’s love-lavishing ceremony. Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) reluctantly hung to the side as the other women scooted together for a photo with Miller.
That prompted heckles from the men: “Get up there!” and “Come on, Cheryl, smile!”
The Senate president smiled wide as an aide snapped a photo and then said: “Thank you very much.”
The chamber erupted in applause.