Former Maryland state Del. Darryl Barnes, the previous chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he hopes his transition into lobbying will open the door for more Black people to join the profession.
Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat who was first elected in 2014 and was reelected to a third term in an uncontested race in November, left the legislature after the conclusion of the 90-day lawmaking session in early April to join Evans & Associates, an Annapolis lobbying firm.
Barnes said he plans to establish a Black lobbying association in the state to recruit and mentor future lobbyists and focus on policies affecting the African American community.
“There are not enough people of color in this multimillion-dollar industry here in the state of Maryland,” Barnes said.
He said he could only recall seeing about 10 Black lobbyists in Annapolis during his eight years in the legislature.
Black representation in the General Assembly has increased in recent years, according to a recent report from the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. Barnes said that, with the change in the makeup of the legislature, broader discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion are especially important in state politics.
Barnes said lawmakers should always consider their “succession” plan, or what they’re going to do after their time in the legislature. Oftentimes, lawmakers — especially those who are people of color — may not think about their succession plan “until it’s too late,” he said.
Barnes hopes to be an example for others to follow.
“I would love to see that more people of color get into this profession,” he said.
By establishing a Black lobbying association, Barnes aims to create opportunities for more people of color to do just that.
Barnes said he could only remember one other African American lawmaker hired by a lobbying firm in recent years: longtime House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, who joined the Annapolis firm Capitol Strategies after retiring from the legislature in January.
Not every legislator is experienced enough to become a lobbyist, Branch said. Or, he said, they may choose not to join a lobbying firm after their time in the legislature.
Working as a lobbyist wasn’t something Branch sought out; he initially planned to “relax and retire.” But, given his 28 years of experience in the House of Delegates, firms started reaching out when he chose not to run again for his seat representing Baltimore City.
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