In between his swearing-in and attending receptions, S. Saqib Ali was changing diapers and preparing baby bottles.
But Ali's distinction as the first Muslim to serve in the General Assembly has garnered the most attention, somewhat to his chagrin. He said he campaigned on issues, not religion.
"I'm Muslim, and that'll always be the case, but I'm here to push good issues and good policy for all Marylanders," he said.
Ali's district is about 40 percent minority, he said, and part of his campaign involved introducing those new immigrants to the political process, registering new voters and showing them how to cast a ballot.
"Bringing new Americans into the process is good for everybody. It's empowering," said Ali, who raised nearly $120,000 and ousted incumbent Del. Joan Stern in the Democratic primary.
On a day when leaders promoted the diversity of the General Assembly, Ali, of Gaithersburg, was content to get started on his legislative efforts, such as consumer protection and information security.
"We're looking for good ideas," he said.
Now he can show his students how it's done.
Democratic Sen. Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor at American University, said yesterday he will bring them to Annapolis this session to see government in action. And if Raskin, a self-described "hands-on progressive," has any say in what that action includes, students will see lawmakers tackle the death penalty issue once and for all.
"I hope this will be a session in which we consider seriously repealing the death penalty," said Raskin, who lives in Takoma Park.
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Raskin has been circling Annapolis for some time. He managed Douglas F. Gansler's campaigns for Montgomery County state's attorney (Gansler was sworn in last week as state attorney general) and in 1999 was named by Gov. Parris N. Glendening the first chairman of the Maryland State Higher Education Labor Relations Board.
Joined yesterday by his wife, Sarah Bloom, and children Hannah, Tommy and Tabitha, Raskin said is pleased to join fellow Montgomery County Democratic Sen. Brian Frosh on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The new senator said he hopes to introduce a bill to lower the voter registration age to 16 so that students register before graduating from high school.
His goal? "One hundred percent voter registration."
The professor has high hopes.
James N. Robey