By Megan Poinski
Sen. Delores Kelley said she’s been involved in politics all her life.
She started out many years ago by getting involved with the Maryland Democratic Party. After working with legislators, she realized that was where the action was happening, and decided to run for the House of Delegates in 1990.
She thought issues were being ignored, and she thought she could do a better job.
Two decades later, Kelley, 74, is still in Annapolis representing District 10 in the Randallstown area of Baltimore County – now as a senator – and hopes to return in January for another four-year term. Retirement is not on Kelley’s radar just yet.
“I’m in the middle of it,” Kelley said. “We are being productive. There is work that needs to be done. So I say, ‘Why not I?’”
After a term in the House, she was elected to the Senate, where she has served ever since, gaining leadership positions and seniority. She currently chairs the Executive Nominations Committee, co-chairs the Joint Committee on Access to Mental Health Services, and is a member of the Finance Committee.
Kelley also serves on several boards, commissions and task forces for the state. These include the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission, the Commission to Study the Title Insurance Industry in Maryland, the Continuing Care Advisory Committee, and the new Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness.
Kelley’s legislative achievements are also numerous. In 20 years, she said she has had more than 100 bills that she sponsored signed into law. The topics of those bills are diverse, ranging from neglected and abused children to people with disabilities, from consumer affairs to regulations for new homebuilders. Since she has been on the Finance Committee, she has sponsored several pieces of legislation dealing with financial regulators.
“Some people specialize in one area,” Kelley said. “I’m more eclectic.”
She still has other legislation to work on. Kelley has learned through the years that sometimes it takes quite a while to get legislation through the General Assembly. She mentioned a bill she backed (with then-Sen. Paula Hollinger from a neighboring district) that required dump trucks to cover their loads when on the road — a bill she said took 26 years to reach the governor’s desk. A more recent example Kelley offered is a bill dealing with powers of attorney, which she pushed for 15 years before it became law.
Issues she is still working include legislation to make sure that all contractual obligations are being met at continuing care facilities for senior citizens.
Atmosphere more partisan
Kelley said Annapolis has become more divisively partisan over the years. In her first term in the House of Delegates, “you didn’t have a preconceived notion of who to work with,” she said. “There were fewer votes that were right down party lines.”
One of the things that changed the atmosphere was the extremely close 1994 gubernatorial election, when Democrat Parris Glendening defeated Republican Ellen Sauerbrey by less than 6,000 votes. Kelley, who observed the vote counting, said a lot of trust lost between members of each party – and that both parties became “more caustic” toward one another.
Both this year and in 2006, she had a particularly difficult kind of challenger – someone with the same last name. Pat Kelly, as well as Stephanie Boston, are running against her in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.
She said voter are already asking her to spell her last name. How does she surmount this obstacle?
“Cover your polls, and make sure your workers at the poll can answer those questions,” Kelley said. “I’m going to do some radio, and I am going to be sure to spell out my last name.”