A redistricting contrarian

Editor’s note 5/14/2022: I have brought this home from the dead Examiner.com pages.

My debut article as the Eastern Shore Political Buzz Examiner…

While most state Republicans were dead-set against the Congressional redistricting perpetrated by Governor Martin O’Malley and a hand-selected group of appointees last fall, the new lines still went into effect for this year’s elections. Key among the changes was an effort to make the Sixth Congressional District into a Democratic seat by realigning it southward into Montgomery County and excising Frederick and Carroll counties from the district, which once straddled the border with Pennsylvania. Those voters were divided among a number of other districts, primarily the First and Eighth Congressional districts.

Because of this blatant political posturing by the majority party, the MDPetitions group decided to feature a petition against the redistricting law, which passed in a Special Session last year, along with another drive to overturn the same-sex marriage law signed by Governor O’Malley earlier this year.

A Central Committee member from Montgomery County maintains the redistricting petition takes away from “expending our energies and resources to re-elect Congressman (Roscoe) Bartlett in the new 6th District and to elect Ken Timmerman in the new 8th District.”

More importantly, the letter John Midlen circulated at the recent state GOP Convention reveals Timmerman is against the redistricting petition, which puts him at odds with the state party.

According to Midlen’s letter, Timmerman points out that the revised 8th District is only barely a Democratic district, with just more than 50 percent registered Democrats and the remainder Republicans and unaffiliated voters. It’s a departure from the previous Eighth District, which stemmed from the attempt by majority Democrats a decade ago to pack the bulk of Maryland’s Republican voters into two Congressional districts, then represented by Bartlett and former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore.

That strategy changed a 4-4 delegation split as recently as the 2000 election to a 6-2 Democratic edge in 2002 and a 7-1 bulge from 2008 to 2010, a term when Democrat Frank Kratovil won the First District after a bitter GOP primary.

Midlen also points out that, even if the petition drive is successful and district lines are changed, it’s likely that Democrats will come up with a system just as devious for 2014. One piece of evidence which suggests this would be the case was the manner in which several GOP Delegates were lumped together in new House of Delegates districts for the 2014 election – unlike the Congressional districts, the state legislative districts aren’t subject to referendum because no action was taken by the General Assembly. By law, the Governor’s lines became valid if a different map wasn’t passed by the General Assembly within the session’s first 45 days.

Obviously a lot can change in 10 years’ time, but the significance of the 2000 redistricting and the immediate gain of two Congressional seats by Democrats in 2002 – an election where Republicans gained eight seats nationwide – shows Maryland Democrats are trying to stack the deck even more in their favor in a state where they only enjoy about a 2:1 registration advantage over Republicans.

The question answered in November will be whether they overreached by weakening a number of other Democrat-friendly districts in order to gain the Bartlett seat.

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