The word came down last night from the victor himself:
I just received a call from the Governor’s office appointing me as the new Senator for District 36 – I am both thrilled and humbled by all the support I received during this appointment process. I am looking forward to serving the 36th District in this new role. Thank you again to all those that offered support, prayers and well wishes this was truly a humbling experience.
Steve Hershey wasn’t the longest shot, but going in he may not have been the favorite, either. Yet he secured the votes of two Central Committees in the four-county district and that was enough to forge a tie with fellow Delegate Michael Smigiel and throw the fate of the seat into the hands of Governor Martin O’Malley. Given Smigiel’s forceful opposition of O’Malley’s onerous gun law package this spring, you knew he would be punished by not getting the appointment he sought.
So Hershey gets the seat vacated by the resignation of former Minority Leader Senator E. J. Pipkin, who followed Rick Perry’s advice before the commercials even came out and moved to Texas. Now the scene shifts to the battle over Hershey’s vacated Delegate seat. As I recall, it cannot be filled by a resident of a county already represented in the district, so residents of Cecil County (Smigiel) and Kent County (Delegate Jay Jacobs, who did not seek the Senate post) would be excluded – but their Central Committees would have a vote.
Out of the original field of 14, all but three hailed from either Queen Anne’s County or Caroline County, which is the lone Maryland county without a resident Delegate. Not all of the remaining ten would seek the Delegate seat, but several probably would and they may be joined by a few others – one being Caroline County commissioner Jeff Ghrist, who made a lengthy plea on Facebook which I excerpt here:
Governor O’Malley will soon be selecting our new District 36 Senator and subsequently one of two House of Delegate seats will become available. This will require someone to fill a Delegate seat. Caroline County has been without a resident of our county representing us in Annapolis for nearly two decades. While I sincerely enjoy being a Commissioner in Caroline County…I would love to take my passion and experience for limited and efficient government to Annapolis.
The first goal is to build a concensus (sic) throughout the district that I am the best appointment for Delegate. Not only do I have a strong legislative and executive track record but Caroline County deserves resident representation.
Ghrist has been seeking higher office for awhile; he briefly campaigned for Congress in 2009 before withdrawing and endorsing Andy Harris.
So we will probably have much the same circus we did for the Senate seat, with the real possibility of another split vote and Martin O’Malley breaking the tie.
Meanwhile, Hershey’s tenure may be short-lived. Former Delegate Richard Sossi is actively planning a run for the seat, as is 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz. The same sort of situation may occur in the District 36 Delegate race next year, with several jockeying for position to be the top vote-getter in a particular county.
Long-term, the solution to that issue may be to enact 141 separate House of Delegate districts, instead of the confusing mishmash of having some three-person districts as well as a handful which are split in a 2-1 configuration. But in the meantime, the political races on the Eastern Shore may be some of the most interesting in the state with the District 36 openings, a primary challenge to the incumbent in District 37A, the opening in District 37B thanks to the selection of Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to the David Craig gubernatorial ticket, the forced move of Delegate Mike McDermott to a challenge for the District 38 Senate seat due to redistricting, and a brand new District 38C with no incumbent.