Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George's) was elected by a majority in the General Assembly as the next state treasurer on Thursday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.
Dereck Eugene Davis was 27 years old when he was elected to represent Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates in 1994.
“When I came in, I was serving [in Annapolis] with giants like Clarence Blount and Elijah Cummings,” Davis (D) said in an interview Thursday. “As a fellow African-American, I didn’t want to be the one to embarrass myself.”
He did all right for himself.
Davis quickly rose through the ranks in the House, spending 19 years as chair of the Economic Matters Committee, a role with a huge portfolio that made him one of its most powerful members. In 2019, Davis fell a couple of dozen votes short of becoming House speaker.
Now, Davis’ time as a member of the House is winding down, after spending half of his life in the legislature. On Thursday, his colleagues overwhelmingly elected him to be the 24th state treasurer in the history of Maryland (Until the 1850’s, the Eastern Shore and the western shore of Maryland had separate treasurers).
The counting of the secret ballots stopped when Davis reached 94 votes, a majority of the General Assembly. Another candidate, government CPA Joseph Zimmerman, received one vote. Single write-in votes were cast for Robin L. Grammer III — presumably the son of Del. Robin L. Grammer Jr. (R-Baltimore County) — and for “Let’s Go Brandon,” coded conservative language for “F*** Joe Biden.” On Dec. 17, Davis will be sworn in to replace Nancy K. Kopp (D), who is retiring after almost two decades as treasurer — and half a century of state government service. Davis will be the first state treasurer from Prince George’s County and the second African-American to hold the post, after Richard N. Dixon (D) of Carroll County, who served from 1996 to 2002.
Davis was invited to the rostrum to address his longtime House colleagues. “So this is what it looks like from up here,” he joked — a reference to his unsuccessful run for speaker in 2019.
“The incredible show of support means a great deal to me,” Davis continued. “It is with a great deal of humility and a spirit of thanksgiving that I stand before you today as treasurer-elect for the state of Maryland.”
Davis’ 10-minute speech to his colleagues was full of reminiscences, inside jokes and gratitude to Kopp and legislative staffers — and especially his colleagues on Economic Matters.
“It’s truly been a blessing to be your chairman for 19 sessions,” he said.
Davis also had a request for lawmakers: “When I come before your budget committee and the Appropriations Committee, don’t give me crap. Just give me my damn money.”
Immediately after Davis spoke, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) announced that Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) would take the gavel at Economic Matters.
Then Davis crossed the State House lobby to thank state senators for their votes and promised to represent both chambers on the Board of Public Works to the best of his ability.
Davis ended his speech by recalling a phone conversation he had, after he lost his bid as speaker of the House, with late Senate president Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D), who died earlier this year.
“He was trying to be soothing in the beginning,” Davis recalled, “and I guess he could sense I was feeling sorry for myself or something, and then it flipped.”
The treasurer-elect harkened back to Miller’s colorful vocabulary.
“He said some things — I can’t repeat them here — that he wanted me to tell some other people: Let’s just say it was anatomically impossible.” The chamber burst into laughter.
“But it snapped me right out of it, and I certainly appreciate[d] it,” Davis continued. “President Miller was somebody I greatly respected.”
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) welcomed Davis to the Board of Public Works, which consists of the governor, the state comptroller and the treasurer.
“Dereck and I have always had a great relationship,” Hogan said in a statement. “I look forward to welcoming him to the Board of Public Works, and working with him to continue changing Maryland for the better.”
Kopp will attend one more BPW meeting, next Wednesday.
In an interview, Davis recalled that when he was first elected to the legislature, he was engaged to be married. Now, he has a son who is about to turn 23 and a daughter who is 16.
“You look at all the changes that have occurred for me and in my life,” he said. “All of the changes came while I’ve been sitting on the floor of the House of Delegates.”
But Davis said he is ready for the next chapter of his public life.
“I’m starting to get excited,” he said. “I’ve resisted that urge. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.”
Hannah Gaskill contributed to this report.