O'Malley to Seek Change in Law to Replace Wynn

Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to avoid two elections, costing $2 million.
Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to avoid two elections, costing $2 million. (By Brian Witte -- Associated Press)
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By Rosalind S. Helderman and Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he will ask the General Assembly to pass emergency legislation that would allow the state to have a special general election to replace outgoing Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) without first holding a special primary.

O'Malley (D) said he plans to seek the change before the legislative session's scheduled adjournment Monday, in hopes of avoiding two costly elections. He said his other option, to leave voters in Wynn's district without representation until January, would be unfair to residents.

State election officials estimate that holding both primary and general special elections would cost about $2 million, which could be halved by having only a general election.

Meanwhile, some continued to express disappointment in the timing of Wynn's resignation. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called Wynn's departure "a million-dollar miscalculation."

"This should have been calculated by Congressman Wynn before he resigned. It would be good if his law firm could pick up the tab" for a special election, Miller said.

Wynn, a 15-year congressman whose pursuit of a ninth term ended in February when he was defeated in a Democratic primary by Prince George's lawyer Donna F. Edwards, announced last week that he will resign his seat early in June to work for a law firm.

Edwards will face Republican Peter James in the November election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

According to state law, O'Malley must decide whether to allow the seat to remain vacant until the winner of November's election can take office in January or to have a special primary, followed by a general election, to find a candidate to complete Wynn's term.

O'Malley said he will ask for a revision in the law allowing him to call a general election "where a primary has already happened." He said that he will talk to Republican leaders about his proposal and that he has spoken to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

"I have a hard time accepting the notion that it's not important to fill that seat when you have a congressional seat vacant," O'Malley told reporters.

If the winner could take office before January, he or she would achieve seniority over other congressional freshmen.

O'Malley spokeswoman Christine N. Hansen said the governor's legal staff is reviewing whether the February primary winners would automatically be the candidates in a special election or if the central committees of each party in Prince George's and Montgomery would choose candidates.

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