Surrounded by loved ones, the State of Maryland’s longest serving Speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael Erin Busch, passed away on Sunday, April 7, 2019, after contracting pneumonia resulting from complications associated with a 2017 liver transplant.
Sworn-in unanimously as House Speaker for the 5th time on January 9, 2019, Busch, known as Coach by many due to his lifelong involvement in sports and athletics, was beloved and well-respected by political colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his conciliatory demeanor and reputation as a consensus builder.
Busch self-identified as a Progressive. He is on record that he was strongly influenced by his parents’ values of inclusiveness, embracing equal rights as a result of lessons learned during the height of racial segregation challenged during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
He shared with the Associated Press in a 2002 interview that “[equality] was ingrained in me from my grandparents to my parents and through [turmoil of] the ’60s.” Busch recalls two pictures on the mantel in his grandparents’ home— Jesus and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said both his paternal and maternal grandparents “believed that Roosevelt gave average people a piece of the American dream,” adding, “I really believe government is there to give people opportunity.”
The Speaker’s advocacy for equality also extended to the LGBTQ community.
“When I first got to the legislature, he wasn’t somebody who worked against us. But he wasn’t our ally,” former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur said in an interview the Washington Blade.
However, after counsel with his daughters, Busch would become “our greatest ally,” Mizeur said.
“He was pushing marriage before it was popular or easy to do, and I’m really honored that I had an opportunity to work under him,” she informed The Blade.
As well, part of Mike Busch’s recipe for success in Annapolis perhaps culminates from lessons learned as a young athlete. In 1969 during his junior year at Temple University in Philadelphia, Busch set a record as a running back, gaining 185 yards in a game against Bucknell University.
However, Busch’s potential career as a professional football player in the NFL was sidelined by a leg injury. Before word of his condition became general knowledge, Michael received a letter from the Dallas Cowboys organization that read: “you are being considered by our ball club as one of our top draft choices.”
Considering that the primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback, to catch passes out of the backfield, and to block tackles, it has become clear that Michael Busch exported his formula for winning on the football field and carried them over into the field of politics.
He took bills quarterbacked by his fellow delegates and maneuvered them past the goal posts into law. Important legislation that might be meandering in the backfield of political gridlock were passed to Michael Busch and scored. Bills that he felt might be against his constituent’s best interests in Annapolis were blocked and tackled.
Yet the converse is equally true. Mike Busch was not timid about crossing the aisle to support legislation from his political rivals that he recognized as beneficial to Marylanders. The quintessential team player, Busch earned a reputation for even-handedness in doling out committee assignments and giving fair hearing on issues to his Democrat and Republican colleagues, both long-time and freshman Delegates.
The forgone thumbnail of Michael Erin Busch’s career is gleaned from an examination of the available public record. However, a more revealing insight into Busch— the man, the person— requires a glimpse at his Twitter feed during the last 90 days of his life.
Speaking to everyone and no one in particular, these are random, honest, candid thoughts, observations and feelings of The Speaker:
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Jan 9
I am honored to be unanimously elected by the House of Delegates to serve as Speaker of the House. We will work to provide affordable health care, a world-class education, and wages that allow working men and women to provide for their families.
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Jan 21 — Mike Busch Retweeted MD House Democrats
Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me to get involved in public service. Today, let’s take a step back and remember the values that we share, how we are all created equal, and that when we work together we can accomplish great things.
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Jan 21
We as elected officials have to be examples, for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. We must be examples for civil rights and equality. tonight I pledge myself to do that. The annual wreath laying is a constant reminder.
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Feb 1
Today is National #WearRedDay – We are lucky to have so many women in the House of Delegates who represent every corner of our diverse state. This month, join the
@American_Heart to raise awareness about heart disease
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Feb 12
Proud to present my good friend Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones with the Cas Taylor Award for her dedication to public service and for representing the spirit of the House of Delegates
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Feb 18
Our Democratic Leadership package speaks for itself. Strong support across the state for legislation to build a stronger middle class in Maryland
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Feb 25
The oyster population is at a critical tipping point. This legislation is about protecting public investment and ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay can experience long term economic and ecological benefits
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Mar 18
Tonight two important gun safety bills passed the House of Delegates:
☑️ Background checks on all private rifle & shotgun transfers
☑️ 3D printed gun ban
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Mar 26
I’m proud of what we have accomplished by passing this year’s state budget. It’s bipartisan, balanced, and with over $7 billion for public schools — it’s the most ever spent on education in Maryland
Mike Busch @SpeakerBusch Mar 29
I want to thank my good friend, Speaker Pro-Tem Adrienne Jones, for taking the rostrum and guiding the House this week in my absence. I’ll be back next week and look forward to seeing everyone
West Baltimore native, Regi Taylor is a married father of four. He is an artist, writer and media professional specializing in political history.