Vastly outnumbered and constantly thwarted by Democrats, Republicans in the House of Delegates ousted longtime Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell Tuesday and replaced him with Anne Arundel County Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke.
After a meeting that dragged on more than two hours, Republicans also replaced House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, from the Middle Eastern Shore, with Harford County Del. Kathy Szeliga.
Republican delegates met behind closed doors in the House
office building. While the debate preceding the vote was not public, the sound of loud, angry voices could be clearly heard from the hallway outside. Afterward, Kipke declined to reveal the margin of victory.
O'Donnell, 52, a 19-year veteran from Calvert County, had been the Republican floor leader since 2007. Haddaway-Riccio, 36, has served as whip since 2011.
Kipke, 34, has served in the House since 2007. Szeliga, 51, was elected in 2011 and becomes the rare freshman to hold a top leadership position.
The leadership shift brings little ideological change. Both the outgoing and incoming leaders and whips are solid conservatives.
Kipke said the change was driven by a feeling in the caucus that the leadership needed to do a better job of getting the message out to Marylanders that the party offers solutions to serious problems.
"We have been failing at getting our message out to a larger pool of Marylanders," he said.
Kipke said he would emphasize building closer ties with such outside conservative groups as Americans for Prosperity, Change Maryland and Campaign for Liberty.
Republicans control 43 seats in the House, compared with 98 held by Democrats.