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Former Maryland Democrat Sheila Hixson Dies At Age 89

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Former Maryland Democrat State Delegate Sheila Hixson has passed away.

The prominent Democrat, who served as the Maryland Ways and Means chairwoman, died at the age of 89 on Sunday, just days before the crucial midterm elections.

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“Her death was announced Monday by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) and the four state lawmakers in Montgomery County’s District 20, which Hixson represented for 43 years. No cause of death was given, though the ex-lawmaker was in declining health in recent years. She died in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where she lived with one of her daughters,” local news outlet WTOP reported.

“Hixson was the longest-serving woman in the history of the General Assembly, and was chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee from 1993 to 2017. She was one of the most progressive members of the General Assembly when Democratic moderates were dominant, but she was also a political pragmatist, who began waging uphill policy fights only when she knew she had a chance of winning,” the outlet noted.

“All of the progressive issues in the state of Maryland, all started with Sheila Hixson,” the late Democrat House Speaker Mike Busch said during a tribute to Hixson in 2017, when she announced she would not seek another term.

“We are grateful for her impassioned life of service and her enduring contributions to the dynamic political culture of District 20, where her Breakfast Club was always the center of the action, the good-government politics of Montgomery County and progressive legislative change in the state of Maryland. Sheila believed in the power of government to be an instrument of common prosperity and the agent of excellent constituent service. She listened to and valued the voice of the people,” Raskin, state Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery) and Dels. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery), David Moon (D-Montgomery) and Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) said in their statement announcing Hixson’s death.

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“Hixson was a lifelong Democratic activist who moved to the Washington, D.C., area from Michigan with her family in the 1960s. She quickly became involved with national and local Democratic politics, and when a vacancy opened in the House of Delegates in early 1976, she was appointed to the position. She was subsequently reelected nine times,” WTOP reported.

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“During an era when women were only beginning to take on positions of power, Hixson ingratiated herself with a generation of male House leaders in Annapolis, impressing them with her political skills and resolve, and was rewarded by then-Speaker Clay Mitchell (D) with the gavel on the Ways and Means Committee, which has major say over education policy, election laws, and taxation. During her years as chair, Hixson hosted an annual St. Patrick’s Day party in Annapolis that became a cherished political tradition. She remained as chair until 2017, when she was replaced by Del. Anne Kaiser, a fellow Montgomery County Democrat, and was given the position of chair emerita,” the outlet added.

“She was a fascinating person & strong leader and I value the lessons I learned from serving with her,” Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City), the Democratic nominee for state comptroller, said in a tweet.

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Democrat County Executive Marc Elrich said: “Montgomery County lost one of our great leaders. We are a better community because of her decades of public service. Our County and State’s growth, diversity, and success is a result of her hard work and dedication. We will never forget this historic and trailblazing figure.”

“In addition to her legislative career, Hixson worked as a Democratic strategist, congressional staffer, and Capitol Hill lobbyist. For years, she was part of an elite group of volunteers with the Democratic National Committee who handed out coveted guest tickets to the quadrennial Democratic National Convention, a job that enhanced her power and political cachet,” the outlet concluded.

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