A group that contends Maryland must draw three minority congressional districts is upping the ante in the war of words over a proposed redistricting plan that Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) and other critics says doesn’t go far enough to protect African-American representation for Maryland voters in Congress.
The state’s Fannie Lou Hamer PAC has put Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) in its crosshairs, saying that if the office of the state’s top law enforcement official defends the plan expected to be introduced next week by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), it will be failing to protect voting rights of the state’s minorities.
“Gansler is clearly failing in his fiduciary duty to protect the voting rights of black and brown folks in Montgomery County,” said Radamase Cabrera, spokesman for the PAC, which aims to increase minority representation in the state. The grassroots group named after a Mississippi voting rights activist who died in 1977, has a nucleus of support in Prince George’s County, and is pursuing an unlikely partnership with the Maryland GOP to help fund a potential legal challenge to state Democrats’ plan.
According to drafts of the plan, O’Malley and fellow Democrats will seek to oust Western Maryland’s 10-term Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R) by moving a swath of liberal voters in Montgomery County in to the traditionally conservative 6th Congressional District, which Bartlett represents.
Edwards and other critics this week said the plan could undermine the voting power of minorities, potentially leaving majority-minority Montgomery County represented by three white congressmen for years to come.
“Doug Gansler has to be out of his damn mind if he thinks he can stand up and defend a plan that is clearly institutional racism,” Cabrera charged. “Where is his legal opinion that this is ok?”
Gansler’s office has been consulting on the legality of the plan drafted by O’Malley’s redistricting commission, but Gansler spokesman David Paulson said in an e-mail that the attorney general’s office has “no role” in the policy of where the lines should be drawn.
“The Attorney General respects the legislative process, and the Constitution and laws of Maryland require that his office be ready to defend what the legislature passes should it be challenged in court,” Paulson said. “It would not be professional or ethical for the Attorney General to publicly advocate for one plan over another, especially before the General Assembly has spoken.”
Cabrera warned that Gansler, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2014, should consider his political future in how he proceeds in coming weeks.
“He’s out fundraising right now to be governor,” Cabrera said. “He’s crazy if he thinks he is going to use the black and brown vote in Montgomery County to win.”