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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


July 6, 2011

More Redistricting Food for Thought

Kevin E. Dayhoff

On the Fourth of July Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced a five-member committee to draft a legislative and congressional redistricting plan for the state.

 

If you missed it, count yourself into a large club. Many keen political observers missed the ‘dog whistle’ announcement and – candidly – it is a bit of a mystery as to just how it was announced. And why in the world announce the make-up the committee on the Fourth of July?

 

Just after midnight Tuesday morning, a quick search of the Maryland state website on the “Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee” only revealed a blank file with the words, “Information coming soon.”

 

No mention of the committee announcement could be found on the Department of Planning “Congressional and Legislative Redistrictingwebsite. Not a word could be found on the “Press Releases by Governor Martin O’Malley” website.

 

Credit goes to the Washington PostMaryland Politics” blog. There was posted a short article at 5:21 p.m., on July 4: “O’Malley announces Maryland redistricting committee.”

 

A few other news organizations, in addition to the Post reported that “O’Malley announced the five-member Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee on Monday. He says the group will immediately develop a schedule of public hearings so that citizens can participate in the process.”

 

Then the article said: “The group plans to hold its first meeting on Wednesday.”

 

Well, it is sincerely hoped that the press and the public will get a little more notice of future meetings.

 

“O’Malley says his secretary of appointments, Jeanne Hitchcock, will serve as chair of the committee,” reports the Post. “Also on the committee are Maryland Senate President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller [D., Calvert/Prince George’s]; Speaker of the House Michael Busch [D., Anne Arundel]; James King, who has served as a member of the House of Delegates; and Richard Stewart, who is currently president and chief executive officer of Montgomery Mechanical Services Incorporated.”

 

I have always found the process to fulfill the requirements of U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 2 and the Maryland Constitution Article III, Section 5, to be the byzantine shotgun marriage of math, geography, and politics.

 

My sense of suspense over redistricting in Maryland has only been exacerbated by several recent conversations with politicos and politicians, who served-up ample Southern Gothic portions of anecdotal morsels that the decennial Maryland redistricting process is the meal of a great deal of anxiety, rumor, curiosity, and suggestions of intrigue.

 

Announcing the committee late in the day on a federal holiday will certainly provide food-for-thought for the rapacious appetite of the politically curious.

 

And not just among Republicans. Almost all of my conversations have taken place with liberal Democrats, who dined-on speculations of political intrigue and deal making of Hollywood-meets-the-local-hair-salon proportions. “Who is going to be on the committee?” Why was it taking so long for the governor to announce the members? And “Who’s on first and what’s on second?”

 

Nevertheless, a thoughtful primer on the thoughts and concerns of Maryland Republicans may be found on TheTentacle.com on June 23. In “Power and Money,” longtime political observer Chris Cavey wryly wrote: “The summer solstice has come and gone and daylight is getting less and less. Still little has been mentioned by Maryland's governor about redistricting. No committee has been appointed to date and little has been said publically about the expected special session of the Maryland General Assembly slated for this fall.

 

“This begs the question: Does Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Democratic Party really care about public input in realigning our political districts, or will it be, just as expected, a superficial showing to appease the public?”

 

The Baltimore Sun also weighed-in on redistricting on July 4 in a story by John Fritze, posted on the newspaper’s website at 3:41 p.m.

 

Mr. Fritze only obliquely mentions the newly appointed committee near the end of the piece, “Under the Maryland Constitution, the governor is responsible for submitting a redistricting plan to the General Assembly. As a first public step in that process, Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, named five members of an advisory redistricting committee on Monday.”

 

However, the story does not mention who is on the committee and most of the wet ink concentrated on Maryland’s 1st Congressional District – and criticism of Republican Rep. Andy Harris.

 

The Maryland 1st and 6th Congressional District – where Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett holds the seat – have been the favored dessert of many platefuls of flavorful rumors and speculations of deal making and intrigue. Mr. Cavey also made that clear on June 23 in TheTentacle.com.

 

According to Mr. Fritze, “David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said things will get a lot more interesting once that process plays out. ‘Although no one is paying much attention right now, Democrats are carefully planning to take a sledgehammer to the 1st District,’ said Wasserman, who recently moved the seat from Cook's ‘likely Republican’ column to the slightly more competitive ‘lean Republican.’

 

“‘Redistricting will be used,’ he said, ‘to roll out the blue carpet for Frank Kratovil.’ ”

 

Meanwhile, on Thursday, July 14, Republican Maryland Sen. Joe Getty (Baltimore/Carroll) will hold a breakfast fundraiser. The event, billed as “Maryland’s Redistricting Conundrum,” will take place from 7:30 to 10:30 A.M. at The Maryland Inn at 16 Church Circle, Annapolis.

 

At the $125-per-person, southern breakfast buffet event, Senator Getty “will share insights about this year's redistricting process…  [I]n 2002, Getty was one of the petitioners who challenged Gov. [Parris] Glendening's legislative redistricting plan in the Maryland Court of Appeals. For more information visit www.getty2010.com or call 443.536.4700.”

 

No word as to whether or not grits will be served; however, Senator Getty, a noted author, historian and constitutional scholar, will probably serve-up plenty of food-for-thought for everyone of all political persuasions to chew on.

 

. . . . . I’m just saying…

 

kevindayhoff@gmail.com

 



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