UPDATED—State Sen. Norman Stone said Monday that he will not seek re-election after more than 50 years in the Maryland General Assembly.
"I've decided that 52 years is enough," said Stone in an interview. "I think it's time."
Stone will attend a campaign fundraiser event for Del. John Olszewski Jr. Tuesday where the two-term delegate is expected to announce his intent to run for Stone's seat.
In an interview with Patch in January, Stone called Olszewski the likely successor to the Senate seat.
Monday night, Stone said he plans to support Olszewski, who turns 31 in September.
Stone, who turns 79 in September, celebrated his golden anniversary in the General Assembly in January 2012. Since then he has dodged questions about his plans for 2014. Stone acknowledged that he had hoped to delay a formal announcement until as late as October.
“I think Johnny wanted to make his announcement at his event,” Stone said. “He needs to get moving.”
Stone grew up in Highlandtown where he attended public schools in the city.
It was in the late 1950s that Stone bought his first home in the Battle Grove community—a community of neatly manicured postage stamp-sized front lawns fronting brick row houses built and populated by blue collar guys, many who worked at the nearby steel mills.
The $9,000 home cost Stone $78 a month in mortgage payments.
Stone earned $100 a week as a bricklayer as he worked his way through the University of Baltimore School of Law and graduated in 1960.
The east side of Baltimore County was the center of political power at that time. Stone joined the Battle Grove Democratic Club.
It wasn’t long after joining the club that Stone received a call at home early one morning from Michael “Iron Mike” Birmingham. The east side Democratic political boss, who later went on to become Baltimore County’s first county executive, asked Stone to run for the House of Delegates. Few people turned down such a request from Birmingham. Stone was elected in 1962 to his first and only term in the House of Delegates, Stone said in a 2010 interview.
Four years later Stone was elected to what would be 12 consecutive terms in the Senate—the most of any senator in Maryland. Political observers said Stone maybe one longest-serving legislators in the country.
During his tenure, Stone was chair or vice chair of a number of committees and subcommittees that now no longer exist.
“In 1963, there were only two committees [in the House] that met every day—Judiciary and Ways and Means,” Stone said. “The others only met when they received bills.”
Most recently, Stone served as Senate President Pro Tem from 1995-1999 and since 2000 has been Senate Pro Tem Emeritus, an honorary title recognizing his long service.
He twice served as chairman of the county delegation to the Senate, first from 1968-1972 and then again from 2003-2010.
Stone has been co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics since 2003.
Stone’s time in the Senate has not always passed smoothly.
In 2002, Stone was one of a number of legislators and others who filed suit attempting to strike down a redistricting map drawn up by then-Gov. Parris Glendening.
Stone opposed the governor on a gay rights bill and other legislation and Glendening responded, in part, by drawing a new district for Stone that spanned both sides of the Patapsco River and was only attached by a sinewy strand of highway that is the Francis Scott Key Bridge.
Stone’s argument was one of the few that prevailed as the state Court of Appeals struck down Glendening’s plan and opted to redraw the map on their own. The result of that decision created a 6th district for Stone that covered Dundalk and part of Essex and was wholly within the boarders of Baltimore County.
Stone ran unopposed in 2002 and trounced Bill Kushernick, his Republican opponent in 2006, by more than a 2-1 margin.
But in 2010, Norman Stone, then 75, narrowly defeated political upstart Jordan Hadfield, then 27, in the Democratic primary.
Hadfield made the issue about Stone’s age and time in office and outworked Stone in a door-to-door campaign that included shoveling snow during that winter’s twin blizzards, which are often referred to as Snowpocalypse.
“My age was an issue then and that was four years ago,” Stone said Monday.
Since being re-elected in 2010, Stone, a moderate Democrat, has been criticized by education advocates in his home county and political bloggers from outside Baltimore County who represent the left wing of his party.
Stone over the last decade has steadfastly opposed the creation of any form of elected school board in the county.
In 2012, Stone twice drew the ire of David Moon, a blogger who runs the Democratic political blog MarylandJuice.com.
Most notably, it was for an anti-bestiality bill sponsored by Stone that was later withdrawn.
“Maryland Juice is glad Mr. Stone’s colleagues think this is a laughing matter, because I consider [Stone] a disgrace to the Democratic Party and the institution of the State Senate,” Moon wrote in a Feb. 9, 2012 post. “He is a relic from a hateful part of America’s past and somehow the leadership of this State decided to keep him around—and give him committee chairmanships.
Moon called Stone “a jerk” and called for the senator’s defeat.
“Will somebody #PRIMARYHISASS?” Moon wrote. “I am collecting $1 pledges from potential donors.”
Just the day before, Moon skewered Stone for his pro-death penalty positions and opposing a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and for a vote Stone cast in 1967 against a bill that would have allowed interracial couples to marry in Maryland.
A number of legislators who represent Baltimore County have announced in recent months their decisions to not seek re-election.
Some have said the changing political climate played a part in their decisions.
"The House of Delegates is going more liberal and I'm a middle of the road, moderate Democrat," said Democratic Del. Steve DeBoy in a May interview. "You start to feel you're being marginalized. You just can't stop some of this stuff."
Del. Emmett Burns specifically cited the effects of losing battles related to same-sex marriage, the Maryland DREAM Act and a bill granting drivers licenses to people who are in the country illegally.
"The legislature has become too liberal for me," Burns, a Democrat, said last month. "I don't need the headache anymore."
Stone said a changing political climate was not a motivating factor in his decision.
“I don’t think we have that problem in the Senate,” said Stone, adding that tough battles on bills had not worn him down. “I sat through a gun bill hearing this year that was 14 or 16 hours. That’s what Annapolis is all about. You’ve got to be prepared to tackle the tough issues. “
Stone, an attorney in the Law Offices of Peter Angelos, said his retirement is limited to the legislature.
“I still plan to go into the law office every day,” Stone said. “And every day January through April beginning in 2015.”