By Megan Poinski
Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick spent 16 years waiting on the sidelines before entering state politics.
His brother Daniel served four terms in the House of Delegates, and Sonny Minnick always helped with his campaign. He was intrigued with the inner workings of the House.
In 1988, Minnick got his chance to serve. A delegate had resigned, “so I threw my hat in the ring,” he said.
Sitting out one term after a narrow primary election loss, the 77-year-old delegate hopes his 18 years of service will get four years longer with his re-election to continue representing District 6 for the Dundalk area in Baltimore County this year.
When he’s not in Annapolis, Minnick, who calls himself a “conservative Democrat,” is owner and operator of Minnick’s Restaurant and Catering Service. Drawing on his experience with small business, Minnick said he has devoted his legislative career to fighting for the small businesses that employ more people than any other in the nation.
There are few people left to defend small businesses in Annapolis, Minnick said, so his work in the House of Delegates is not yet done.
“Nowadays, I feel like there are only a few of us conservative Democrats left in the House,” Minnick said. “I get up sometimes and talk about businesses, and I see a bunch of blank faces. It’s in one ear and out the other.”
Since first coming to Annapolis, Minnick said the attitudes and actions of legislators have “changed 360 degrees.” State government used to be filled with other conservative Democrats, he said. Now, it is full of what Minnick called “community activists” that bring other issues to the table.
These “activists” don’t always understand the depth and breadth of issues that small business owners face. Minnick said he has to correct misconceptions about how much money small business owners make, as well as what kind of services the government can provide to help them thrive.
Through the years, Minnick said he’s often been accused of voting with Republicans.
“I don’t vote with Republicans, and I don’t vote with Democrats,” he said. “I vote what is best for my constituency.”
Minnick said he has spent much of his time in the House of Delegates working behind the scenes, building consensus and pushing his issues forward. He said he has not passed much legislation, and cannot understand how delegates who introduce 20 or 30 pieces of legislation can adequately keep up and defend it all.
Minnick is a U.S. Navy veteran and House co-chairman of the Maryland Veterans Caucus. He said he has been working to bring veterans the services they need, both those from the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from the older conflicts as well. These issues have taken on more importance because of the planned influx of military personnel through the Base Realignment and Closure process.
“These are the reasons that my job is not finished,” Minnick said.
Win or lose, as he did in 1990, he said that each election has been challenging.
“It becomes more difficult all the time,” Minnick said. “Issues change all the time. The economy is where people are looking today. There has been a lot of job loss and unemployment, and people perceive you can fix all that.”
CORRECTED Minnick and fellow Democratic incumbents John Olszewski Jr. and Michael Weir Jr. are being challenged in the Democratic primary by Todd Crandell, ex-delegate Jake Mohorovic, Raymond Smith and Cassandra Umoh . The top three vote-getters will face Republicans Carlton Clendaniel, Bob Long and Ric Metzgar, as well as unaffiliated Ron Schaeffer, in the general election.
Minnick said that the economic issues will take time and teamwork to fix.
“I want to work on that issue,” he said. “I want to improve that this year.”