By Diane Rey


Sean Cain got to see his mother get sworn in to the Maryland House of Delegates Wednesday, but first he had to take a biology test.

The 15-year-old freshman at St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis made it just in time to see Del. Alice Cain, D-Anne Arundel-District 30A, raise her right hand to take the oath of office.

His brother, Luke, 13, in 7th grade at Annapolis Middle School, was luckier. He had the whole day off from school.

“Hopefully, it’s an excused absence,” said Del. Cain, 51, a freshman legislator and one of eight Democrats to take over a seat previously held by a Republican. Del. Herb McMillan, R, did not run for re-election after two terms.

Like many legislators, the Cains made the big first day of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly a family affair. Her husband, Frank, was on hand for the ceremony. Other legislators cradled babies, chased after toddlers, or found seats for elderly relatives to watch the proceedings.

For Del. Cain, opening day had a surreal quality.

“I’m pinching myself. I’m so inspired, getting to know the other freshmen delegates. There’s a real spirit of public service.”

Bonding with new delegates

That bonding took place on a tour of the state in December. Since then, she’s been coming in to get her office on the first floor of the House office building in shape. There are pictures on the walls of her with state and federal leaders, a family photo on a sailboat, and potted plants here and there around the room. Before the opening day session began, her in box was already starting to fill up.

A staff meeting was first on the agenda.

“Thank you for being on the team. I think it’s a dream team,” she told the gathering of her three staffers: Dustin Branch, legislative aide; Erin Snell, chief of staff; and Keanuu Smith-Brown, constituent outreach and services associate.

Cain is taking an unpaid leave of absence from her job as executive vice president of Teach Plus, a nonprofit organization that helps teachers take on leadership roles, to serve in the Maryland legislature. She said a passion for social justice propelled her to run for public office.

She’s serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, her first choice, and wants to help lay the groundwork for the Kirwan Commission initiatives for education. She recognizes that sharing the same district with the longest-serving Speaker of the House, Michael Busch, gives her an advantage.

Serving with Coach Busch

“It’s been fun getting to see him in action. He may be speaker, but he’s a coach at heart, and he’s been a great coach for us freshmen,” she said.

The new delegate plans to learn the ropes before proposing new legislation, she said. And then, there’s her wardrobe.

“When I work at home, I wear yoga pants and no makeup,” she said. Sporting a black dress, black heels and a burgundy blazer, she remarked, “I’ll have to get used to this every day.”

At 1 p.m., following the swearing-in ceremony, the staff set up a reception for campaign workers and supporters. They put out a healthy spread of veggies, dip, and fruit.

Campaign worker Amy Juras and neighbor Judy Plott were among the last to leave.

“She’s genuine. She’s a wonderful mother and wife. First and foremost, she can get something done,” said Juras in explaining her support for Cain.

Added Plott: “One of the reasons we love Alice – she listens.”

Diane Rey can be reached at