BEL AIR — State Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr., a first-term Republican senator who represented parts of Cecil and Harford counties, passed away suddenly at his home Sunday. He was 62.
Details of Norman’s death were not immediately released.
Norman, an attorney, was first appointed to the House of Delegates representing Harford County in 2008 before being elected in his own right in 2010. He was elected to the State Senate in District 35, where he represented much of northeastern Harford County and virtually all of Cecil County west of Route 279, for the first time in 2014 and had recently filed for a second term. Prior to entering state politics, he served on the Harford County Planning Advisory Board and the Harford County Liquor Control Board.
Despite his many years of public service, it was Norman’s outgoing personality that many county politicians said they would miss the most.
Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy said Sunday afternoon he was “absolutely shocked” to hear of Norman’s passing, having just seen the senator last week. McCarthy has worked with Norman for many years and said he will miss Norman’s kind nature and concern for Cecil County and its residents.
“He will be sorely missed,” McCarthy said. “He was kind and compassionate and really fun to be with.”
Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger said Sunday that he too was shocked and saddened by Norman’s passing, saying he looked at the senator as a mentor. Norman has been great for District 35 and has been very active in Cecil County, he added. The two worked well together, Schneckenburger said, noting that they’d had a joint fundraiser last summer and had another one planned for the spring.
Schneckenburger called him “one of the real good guys in politics.”
“He was just such a boisterous, full of life person,” Schneckenburger said. “He used to always say ‘hey buddy’ and he meant it.”
Like Schneckenburger, Delegate Teresa Reilly (R-Harford/Cecil) also considered Norman a mentor and said Sunday that Norman’s death was a great loss not only for the county, but for her personally.
“He was someone I looked up to and who has guided me along the way,” said Reilly, who at one time served as Norman’s chief of staff before she too was elected to the legislature. “He will be greatly, greatly missed.”
Delegate Andrew Cassilly (R-Harford/Cecil) had similarly fond memories of Norman, recalling that the senator was always upbeat and quick with a joke or funny comment. But Norman took seriously his job representing the residents of Harford and Cecil counties, Cassilly said.
“Senator Norman was committed to serving his constituents and really looking out for all the state of Maryland and we lost a real champion today, a champion of the people,” he said.
On Sunday evening, Senate Minority Whip Steven Hershey (R-Upper Shore), who served with Norman as Cecil County’s only other state senator, wrote on Facebook that he was “stunned and heartbroken” by his friend’s passing.
“It’s difficult to find the words to express the feelings of our caucus or anyone that has served with, known or met this kind and caring man,” Hershey wrote. “We are simply devastated over the loss of our friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those he has touched in this difficult time. ‘Hey, buddy,’ we’re going to miss you.”
In Harford County, County Executive Barry Glassman ordered flags to half staff in honor of Norman and McCarthy followed suit in Cecil County. In a statement released Sunday, Gov. Larry Hogan also ordered state flags to be flown at half staff and mourned the passing of a “distinguished public servant.”
“Senator Norman devoted decades of his life to serving his constituents in Harford and Cecil counties, first at the local level, and then as a delegate and senator,” Hogan said in the statement. “His important and dedicated work on the Judicial Proceedings and Ethics Committees will not be soon forgotten, nor will his steadfast advocacy on behalf of rural Marylanders and our veterans.”
U.S Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st District) also mourned Norman’s passing on Twitter Sunday.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Wayne Norman. Maryland has lost a great public servant, and I will keep the Norman family in my prayers during this difficult time,” he wrote.
Norman was well-known in the legislature for being a fierce proponent of 2nd Amendment rights, and has filed an identical bill nearly every year that sought to make protection of one’s self and family reason enough for the state to issue a concealed carry permit. He also was protective of farmers and fought to reduce state government, opposing taxes, such as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “rain” tax, and O’Malley’s Plan Maryland land use program.
In committees, Norman picked his questions specifically and often sought to make a presenter explain how a Catch-22 scenario may be rectified. His inquisitive nature earned the respect of his colleagues over the years, as evidenced by the bipartisan reaction Sunday.
State Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll) said on Twitter that he was “stunned and saddened” by the news.
“My heart goes out to his family and everyone that loves him. He was a great, fun-loving guy who really knew how to break the tension of those long #JPRAfterDark hours. RIP Wayne, will miss you terribly,” he wrote. “Wayne and I were seatmates on the Senate floor these past 3.5 years and sat together in my last full year in House of Delegates in 2014 too. Huge loss of practical knowledge for the General Assembly along with obviously the pain felt by his family and friends.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) also relayed his thoughts to Norman’s family.
“Shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of my Senate colleague Wayne Norman,” he wrote on Twitter. “Wayne was a thoughtful, hard working legislator who could be a fierce debater and questioner. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and constituents.”
Born in Baltimore, Norman earned degrees in history and law from the University of Baltimore, according to a biography on the senate website. He started his own law firm in 1995. He was a past member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee and a life member of the Harford County Republican Club. He also belonged to the Western Maryland Railway Historical Society and the Sons of the American Legion.
Norman was married and had two children and a grandchild.
With about a month left in the current legislative session in Annapolis and four months until the June primary, it’s unclear how Norman’s death would affect the District 35 senate seat. Norman was one of only a handful of unopposed senatorial candidates in the state.