Hershey, Jennings step away from Senate leadership posts

From left are state Sens. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore; Michael Hough, R-4-Frederick; Bryan Simonaire, R-31-Anne Arundel; and J.B. Jennings, R-7-Harford.

ANNAPOLIS — Steve Hershey, state senator representing Maryland’s upper Eastern Shore, did not seek reelection to his leadership role as minority whip for the Senate Republican Caucus, the caucus announced Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings of Harford County, who served in Senate leadership alongside Hershey, also said he was not seeking reelection to his post.

It was announced Oct. 10 that Sens. Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County and Michael Hough of Frederick County were elected by the Senate Republican Caucus as the minority leader and whip, respectively.

Hershey, who was first appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat in 2013 and then elected to his first full term in the Senate in 2014, still has two more years of his second term to serve. He served as minority whip for six years.

In an interview Oct. 7, Hershey said his opting not to run for Senate leadership reelection does not mean he won’t seek to hang on to his District 36 seat when it’s up for grabs in 2022.

“Deciding not to run for minority whip doesn’t disrupt my capabilities or diminish my effectiveness to represent the 36th District in Annapolis,” he said, adding he has “every intention to continue my public service here on the Eastern Shore.”

Hershey said it was “a pleasure” to serve with Jennings, whom he called a “well respected and like-minded leader.”

“At this juncture we both agreed it was time to turn over what we’ve built and our model for successes to another team,” Hershey said. “We felt the timing was right for this team to begin, settle in and lead us into the upcoming 2022 elections.”

According to a news release, Simonaire has served in the Sentae since 2007. Hough served in the House of Delegates from 2011 to 2015, when he was elected to the Senate. Hough was assistant minority leader in the House from 2013 to 2014, the release states.

“We want to thank Senator sJennings and Hershey for their years of service to our caucus, and we hope to build upon their success,” said Simonaire and Hough in a joint statement.

Of the senators announcing their departure from caucus leadership, Senate President Bill Ferguson said in a statement that he respects their decision to step down. Hershey and Jennings, Ferguson said, have been able to “disagree without being disagreeable” and they were “steadfast advocates for the Republican Caucus and their issues during their time as Leader and Whip.”

“At a time when partisanship has reached extremes, Senators Jennings and Hershey always focused on what is most important: solving problems for our constituents,” he said. “This leadership style benefited all Marylanders, regardless of political affiliation.”

Simonaire said Fergususon has shown a willingness to work with all senators and he looks forward to working with him “in a manner that benefits all Marylanders.”

“However, we must realize that while Maryland politicians have constructed a one-party dominant legislature, we are not a one-party state. Nearly half of all Marylanders are not in the Democratic Party and even more do not subscribe to the recent far-left trajectory taken by the Senate. They deserve a strong minority voice advocating their concerns and desires, and we intend to fulfill that responsibility,” Simonaire said in a statement.

Hough said the Republican leadership will focus on policy. He said that while they do not expect to win every fight, they aim to make the Senate work to better serve the people.

“As the minority party we are the watchdogs against abuse of power. When the Democratic majority is in the wrong, we will call them out. We will cooperate to make wiser laws and be careful guardians of the people’s checkbook,” Hough said in a statement.

Editor Daniel Divilio contributed to this report.

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