Del. Dereck E. Davis, one of two Democrats vying to be elected speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday, has served nearly half of his life in the General Assembly.
He was first elected to represent his Prince George’s County district in 1994, when he was 27. In November, at age 51, he was reelected to a seventh term.
Davis would be the first African American presiding officer in Maryland history and only the fifth in the country, according to the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus.
“This is about everybody having a seat at the table,” he said Monday. “For all those before me who served in leadership roles but never quite got the opportunity to make it all the way to the top.”
Davis served three years as the deputy majority whip before being named in 2003 to chair the Economic Matters Committee. With the appointment, Davis became the fourth African American to chair a House standing committee in Maryland — and the only one from Prince George’s.
He has a reputation for fairness and being willing to listen, but he has frustrated younger and more liberal lawmakers by taking centrist positions on some high-profile issues even as the majority Democratic legislature shifted left. He voted against same-sex marriage in 2012, opposed a 2019 bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to terminally ill patients and introduced a bill in 2017 to put the General Assembly in charge of setting the minimum wage and ban counties and cities from increasing the wage in their jurisdictions.
Davis said recently that those actions “best represented his constituency” but do not reflect a full picture of his career. He introduced the state’s first renewable energy bill in 2004 and its first statewide minimum wage bill in 2006, and he joined liberals in voting to repeal the death penalty in 2013.
In 2016, Davis briefly ran to succeed then-Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D). He is competing for the speaker’s gavel with Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and has the support of a majority of the Black Caucus but not a majority of Democrats, according to lawmakers who are whipping votes. He would likely need support from Republican lawmakers to win on Wednesday.
Del. Edith J. Patterson (D-Charles) described him Tuesday as “the most qualified, and the best candidate” to replace longtime speaker Michael E. Busch, who died in April. “[He] has the credentials. He has the position, and he has demonstrated leadership in his role as chair of Economic Matters,” she said.
Born in the District, Davis attended Central High School in Prince George’s and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Maryland.
He is deputy director of the Office of Community Relations in Prince George’s and previously worked as an administrator for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and the Prince George's County Council.
His wife is Monique Davis, a former deputy schools superintendent in Prince George’s who is a regional assistant superintendent in Anne Arundel County. They have two children and live in Mitchellville.