Tom Hucker has spent his entire career helping people organize to make their government more responsive and effective — first as a community organizer and environmental advocate, and currently as a lawmaker.
At an early age, Tom learned that government could provide critical opportunities for hardworking individuals to succeed and contribute to their communities and their country.
Tom’s grandfather, John J. McGrath, joined the St. Louis Police Department after emigrating from Ireland. In his first patrol, he was killed in the line of duty. At the time, Tom’s grandmother, Mary O’Reilly McGrath, was pregnant with Tom’s mother. Few opportunities existed for single immigrant women in 1922, but Tom’s grandmother was hired by the St. Louis Police Department, where she worked for 45 years helping investigate and apprehend men in arrears of child support payments.
Tom’s father, Arthur A. Hucker, grew up in St. Louis, was drafted into World War II, and became a decorated B-29 pilot who flew dozens of missions over Japan. After serving his country, he was able to attend college on the GI Bill and later became an electrical engineer, a career that would not have been possible otherwise. Tom parents married in 1944 and had five children, of which Tom is the youngest. Tom’s mother, Una, stressed the value of community service to her children. With her encouragement, Tom became an altar boy in their Catholic parish and an Eagle Scout.
Tom graduated from Boston College with honors in 1988 with majors in biology, English, and philosophy. He was a student activist prominent in efforts to end apartheid and fight hunger. He studied to be a doctor, but after helping to pass a 1986 statewide ballot initiative to clean up hazardous waste sites, Tom decided he could affect the health of more people by organizing for the environment. He was twice elected to the student Senate, and was elected Treasurer of the statewide environmental and consumer group Massachusetts PIRG. For his senior honors thesis, he directed a statewide student lobbying effort to pass legislation strengthening state testing standards for drinking water.
After graduation, Tom moved to Washington, DC to run field campaigns for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (now Environment America) and the Sierra Club on efforts to reauthorize the federal Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other federal legislation. He later worked as a community organizer, helping low-income residents fight for neighborhood improvements.
Tom founded Progressive Maryland, the state’s largest grassroots advocacy group, in 2001. The organization brought together thousands of individual members with many community, labor, civil rights, and faith-based groups to improve the lives of working families. The group combined door-to-door organizing, grassroots leadership development, policy research, and face-to-face lobbying.
At Progressive Maryland, Tom authored and led campaigns to pass Living Wage laws in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Both laws reward work by requiring contractors to pay their workers enough to feed their families — over 130% of the federal poverty level.
In Annapolis, he helped advocate for the Thornton Bridge to Excellence in Education in 2002, and initiated and helped lead an effort to close the notorious Delaware holding company corporate tax loophole. He also authored and led efforts to pass the nation’s first statewide Living Wage bill in 2004, which passed the Assembly but was later vetoed by Gov. Ehrlich.
Persisting in the fight for wages, House and Senate leaders worked together with Tom and Progressive Maryland to then raise the state minimum wage, the first time in history Maryland had passed a minimum wage above the federal standard. The increase produced a pay raise that touched over 129,000 Maryland workers.
In the Maryland General Assembly
Tom was elected to the General Assembly in 2006, where he serves on the House Environmental Matters Committee, and on its Environment, Natural Resources, and Land Use and Ethics Subcommittees.
Tom was appointed to the White House Task Force of State Legislators for Health Care Reform, which provides policy advice and organized support for the passage and implementation of the President’s national health care reform efforts.
Continuing his fight for living wages, in his first General Assembly session, Tom authored and passed HB 430, the first statewide Living Wage law in the nation. Tom’s efforts were recognized by national leaders such as the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who called to personally thank Tom for his role in the historic legislation. The legislation received national media attention and is now being studied by the White House as a model for federal contracting.
Tom is a champion of early education. In 2009, he successfully sponsored HB 184 to require the state to finalize a plan to offer free, voluntary pre-Kindergarten to all four-year olds. And in 2010, his successful HB 350 demonstrated overwhelming bipartisan support for federal funds to dramatically expand pre-K in Maryland.
Tom is also one of the environmental leaders of the General Assembly. He took on the Big Three auto manufacturers, passing HB 1263 to slash mercury pollution by requiring auto companies to pay to recycle the mercury in older cars.
In 2008, Tom served on a Working Group that brought together manufacturers, environmentalists, and labor unions to hammer out the details of HB 315, Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. The legislation that resulted is now the toughest state global warming law in the nation.
Tom has also addressed the growing problem of human trafficking. He worked with Montgomery County and Maryland State Police and the Maryland Women’s Caucus to pass HB 1322. This law now forces hotels that have previously been cited in violation of prostitution and/or human trafficking laws to post bi-lingual signs in each hotel room that detail information about human trafficking and provide the National Human Trafficking hotline, thus encouraging victims and witnesses to come forward.
Tom has sponsored legislation to ban arsenic additives from chicken production, to facilitate wind turbines off Maryland’s coast, to prevent stormwater runoff from damaging the Bay, to expand health care access, to provide mental health services for veterans, and to ban discrimination in housing.
Tom serves on the Board of Directors of the Progressive States Network, a national nonprofit that provides policy support for progressive state lawmakers across the nation. He also serves on the board of Purple Line Now, the main advocacy group working to build the Purple Line from Bethesda through Silver Spring to New Carrolton, and co-Chairs the Purple Line Caucus in the General Assembly.
Tom also has been appointed to the Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Tom lives in Silver Spring with his wife Amy, a clinical social worker who works on behalf of at-risk children and families. In addition to the General Assembly, Tom is a consultant to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, helping to keep children’s toys and other consumer products safe.