WASHINGTON – Eight-term Rep. Al Wynn, who was defeated in February’s Democratic primary by Donna Edwards, announced Thursday he will resign his 4th District seat in June to work for the law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP.
“It is time to move on to another phase of my life,” he said in a statement.
By leaving, Wynn said he hoped Edwards would have an opportunity to gain seniority over the congressional class of 2009.
“(It) will allow her to get off to a fast start in serving the citizens of the community,” he said.
But there’s no guarantee Edwards will join Congress early. According to the Constitution, seats in the House of Representatives can only be filled by elected officials, so Edwards would have to win a special election to get to Capitol Hill ahead of the pack. And prospects for such an election are iffy, given there’s a general election for the seat in November.
A special election is only required if a representative leaves in the first half of his or her two-year term.
The decision at this point is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s, and O’Malley wasn’t sure Thursday if the state would hold one.
A special election could cost $1.5 million to $2 million, according to Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator at the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Dickstein Shapiro is a well-established lobbying firm in Washington, with clients such as Loews Corp., Peabody Energy, DuPont Co. and the Cigar Association of America.
Wynn won’t be lonely at Dickstein Shapiro — he attended Georgetown Law with five of the firm’s partners, and former Sen. Joseph Tydings, D-Md., is on staff as well.
Wynn will serve in the government law and strategies group at the firm, according to Partner Andrew Zausner, who heads that division.
“He has a wealth of knowledge about the public policy and political process that will be of great value to the firm,” Zausner said. “This is a dramatically changing time in American politics … he has an incredible amount to offer clients.”
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said he was an effective congressman and he could be equally successful lobbying his former colleagues.
“He would probably be more effective as a lobbyist than as a lame duck congressman,” Miller said.
Under a 1978 law, Wynn is not allowed to lobby Congress for a year after he resigns.
Edwards lauded Wynn for his “dedication” to the District in a statement.
“Congressman Wynn is looking out for the interests of his constituents and I commend him for that,” Edwards said. “I deeply appreciate his willingness to work together to ensure a seamless, smooth transition of representation and constituency services for Maryland’s 4th District.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a statement he was sorry to see Wynn go.
“As neighboring representatives, Al and I have worked together on numerous projects to address both the challenges and opportunities facing the Greater Washington Region,” Hoyer said. “Al has been a good friend with whom I have been fortunate to work during the last two and half decades.”
Mike Cryor, Maryland Democratic Party chairman, said the party was “surprised” by Wynn’s resignation.
“We’ll proceed to do what’s necessary to take full advantage of our seat that we hold and be a full delegation,” Cryor said. “However, given that we’ve got a presidential election going on, I’d hate to tax us with another infrastructure of a campaign.”
Maryland’s 4th District is predominantly Democratic, and Edwards is the clear frontrunner for November’s general election.