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O’Malley asks Prince George’s Democrats to withdraw delegate nominee

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has asked Prince George’s County Democrats to withdraw the name of businessman Greg Hall to replace Tiffany Alston in the House of Delegates until the state’s attorney general rules on whether the seat is actually vacant.

In a letter to the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee late Friday, O’Malley (D) said he was seeking more legal advice on the status of the seat. A spokeswoman for the governor said it was not a reflection on Hall, but it simply allows the state’s attorney general time to review the ruling.

The committee selected Hall to replace Alston after she was sentenced in October for stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her law firm.

But some committee members have begun to express second thoughts about choosing Hall, who was convicted of a misdemeanor gun charge and spent 40 days in jail in connection with the 1992 slaying of a 13-year-old during a shootout. The charge was later withdrawn after tests showed that the fatal bullet came from the gun of another man.

Assistant States’s Attorney General Dan Friedman had advised the General Assembly that Alston’s seat was vacant upon her conviction. But an Anne Arundel County judge last week agreed to modify Alston’s one-year suspended jail sentence to probation before judgment, essentially striking her conviction. She and her attorney have asked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) to review the finding by Friedman.

O’Malley said in his letter Friday that he was motivated, in part, to ask for the ruling because of the request for a review made by Alston and her attorney. He said he “has confidence in the advice provided” by Friedman and noted that most advice from the attorney general’s office is not rendered as a formal, written opinion. But O’Malley said he was asking for an expedited review by Gansler’s office “because of the importance of this issue and the likelihood of litigation in this matter.”

Alston and her attorney have said they are preparing a lawsuit to seek her reinstatement.

She declined on Saturday to comment about the governor’s action.

Hall said he is the rightful choice for the seat and the governor had overreached in asking the committee to withdraw his name.

“He can’t do that. We are moving forward,” Hall said. “I like my governor, but we don’t see eye to eye on this. I am sorry that he feels that way.”

Some committee members have expressed concern about Hall’s nomination, saying privately that they were not fully informed of Hall’s personal history, when he came before the panel Nov. 2 and was selected on a 12-10 vote to replace Alston. Others said Hall made no secret of his past.

The committee met in a contentious closed-door meeting late Thursday to discuss Hall. No agreement was reached at the meeting, and some members left the 30-minute session before it had ended. None would speak publicly about their concerns, but committee chairman Terry Speigner, who had sought Alston’s seat himself and lost the 12-10 vote to Hall, said some members were worried.

“There is concern about how the committee is going to look and how the county is going to look,” Speigner said after the closed-door meeting.

Hall, who says he has never hidden his past, fell 310 votes short of defeating Alston in 2010.

Speigner said the 24-member panel is already scheduled to meet Tuesday. At that meeting, he said “we will comply with the governor’s request to rescind Hall’s nomination.” He said the committee would do what O’Malley asked.

“He is the head of the party,” he said.

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