UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Minority group leaves little doubt about legal challenge
The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, which has formed an unlikely coalition with the Maryland GOP as well as a group that calls itself Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation, has repeated earlier threats to challenge any redistricting map that does not create three majority-minority congressional districts.
PAC spokeswoman Carletta Fellows said that if the governor’s plan is approved, the group will challenge it in federal court and file a grievance with the Justice Department, charging Maryland with section 2 Voting Rights Act violations for diluting African-Americans’ voting power.
Republican whip Sen E. J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Hough introduced an alternative map drafted by the Hamer PAC that would lump all rural areas in the state together and seek to create a third majority minority district by linking suburban Washington and Western Baltimore.
Legislative Republican leaders, Sen. Nancy Jacobs and Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell, also introduced a map drawn by the state’s GOP, which would split many congressional boundaries along county borders.
“This shows it can be done,” O’Donnell said.
“The people of Maryland are not dumb, they see what is happening,” Jacobs added, charging that the redrawn 6th Congressional District, that would attempt to unseat Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R) to help elect a Democrat “with the ins with powerbrokers.”
Senate majority leader Robert Garagiola (D-Montgomery) has said he would be interested in running for Bartlett’s seat in a redrawn district.
UPDATE, 3 p.m.: Rep. Edwards proposes her own map
Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) continues her offensive, attacking O’Malley’s plan as unfair to minorities in Montgomery County, and particularly to Hispanics along the Montgomery-Prince George’s border.
Edwards announces that she sent her own proposed map to select lawmakers Sunday night, and posted it on her campaign Web page.
Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) promises to introduce Edwards’s alternative map as an amendment to the governor’s bill, likely on Tuesday.
Her plan comes under immediate scrutiny, however. Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s) says her map would do little to consolidate Hispanic communities. “How is this better,” he asks.
Montgomery County Del. Brian Feldman takes issue with Edwards’s map giving Prince George’s a say in how four of the state’s members of Congress – or half Maryland’s Capitol Hill delegation – would be elected.
Update, 2:30 pm.: League of Women Voters says Maryland contributing to ‘dysfunctional’ Congress
The League of Women Voters of Maryland levies harsh criticism of O’Malley’s redistricting plan, saying it goes too far for political gain and will contribute to polarizing Congress for the next decade.
“Maryland’s governor and legislators should assess the responsibility for their role in creating a dysfunctional Congress and accept the proposition that just because you can create such boundaries, does not mean you should,” said league president Nancy Soreng.
Baltimore Democrat Del. Maggie McIntosh challenged the assessment saying Maryland would create more competitive districts than others.
Soreng said she disagreed. “The Maryland legislature is legally free to create ugly, unrepresentative political boundaries. But in the interests of Maryland’s citizens, we urge the General Assembly to adopt a congressional redistricting plan that respects the rights of minorities and makes a good faith effort to allow citizens the opportunity to vote for candidates who have the will and ability to represent the interests of all their constituents.”
UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Hoyer’s alma mater?
Rep. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) just questioned why House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s 5th Congressional District swings from southern Maryland into Washington’s northern Maryland suburbs to include College Park, saying he understood it was because Hoyer wanted to continue to represent his alma mater, the University of Maryland-College Park.
The governor’s chief legislative aide Joseph C. Bryce did not dispute the notion, but said Hoyer has represented the area for years, and is able to effectively lobby for funding for the university.
Hoyer’s southern Maryland district grew the most in population over the last 10 years, and critics have said it could have been drawn more compactly. Hoyer’s reported desire to continue to represent UMD is one of several so-called “vanity redistricting” efforts that map makers have said they tried to accommodate.
Rep. C. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D), the ranking member on the House intelligence community, for example, wanted to continue to represent Fort Meade, Aberdeen and the National Security Agency headquarters along the Interstate 95 corridor.
UPDATE, 1:30 pm: Montgomery, Prince George’s executives support plan
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) office has begun making its case for General Assembly approval of a new congressional map with testimony from a panel of heavy hitters.
First up: Montgomery and Prince George’s county executives Isiah Leggett and Rushern Baker and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, all of whom said they strongly support the governor’s plan.
Leggett, the county’s first African American executive, questioned the logic of criticism from Rep. Donna F. Edwards and others that the map would limit the ability of county voters to elect a minority.
“I got elected – countywide,” Leggett said. “Donna Edwards couldn’t help me win that race.”
Baker also called the map “very strong” for Prince George’s, saying it would allow him to effectively lobby for the county on Capitol Hill because two representatives would have to answer to voters in the county.
Rawlings-Blake chimed in that Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) the state’s senior African American lawmaker in congress supports the plan.
UPDATE, 11:30 a.m: O’Malley plays down criticism of map
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) dismissed criticism that his plan to redraw the state’s congressional districts will marginalize the power of minorities in Montgomery County.
“That’s a very, very narrow criticism, not held by the vast majority,” O’Malley said at a morning news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) and some African American and Hispanic lawmakers from the county have charged that the governor’s plan to shift over 120,000 minority voters in Montgomery into the mostly white 6th District in Western Maryland will ensure that only white lawmakers represent the majority-minority county for the next 10 years.
O’Malley said his map is “fair and balanced” and meets the letter of the law to protect minority voting power. Politically, it will make it easier for a Democrat to attempt to unseat 10-term GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.
“There is no voting rights requirement they all [minorities] be packed into one district any more than there is a requirement that all non-minorities be packed into one district,” O’Malley said.
“There are eight districts … and some are more diverse than others.”
O’Malley did not mention Edwards’ by name, but nodded to her predicament of losing Montgomery County voters under his proposed plan.
“I don’t mean to make light of all of the disruption that redistricting can cause for incumbent elected officials,” he said. “The greatest amount of population growth happened in the Washington suburbs and therefore, that is where the disruption of lines has also been the greatest.”
Under O’Malley’s plan, 57 percent of Montgomery County voters would be represented by a different member of congress next year.
It’s shaping up to be a marathon day of debate in Annapolis over Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan.
While it’s expected that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Democratic leaders will have enough support this week to push the plan through the General Assembly, opponents have vowed to pull out all the stops.
Monday morning, O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) will kick off the action with a press conference lauding the merits of the final plan that will set the state’s congressional boundaries for the next 10 years. The governor’s office released the final map late Saturday night.
But Maryland Republicans and the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee have scheduled a joint news conference early Monday afternoon to blast the Democratic proposal as unfair to minorities (with Republicans counting themselves as a minority).
Somewhere in between, the Legislative Black Caucus plans to reconvene to decide whether to endorse the governor’s plan.
During an emotional debate on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) argued that black state lawmakers should go against the party’s plan and vote to force him O’Malley to find another way to upend 10-term Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R) and give Democrats another seat in their quest to retake control of the House of Representatives. She and other critics contend the plan will marginalize the voting power of minorities in Montgomery County.
Edwards’s allies left the caucus meeting as a vote began, preventing a quorum from endorsing the governor’s plan.
And all that is just the warm-up to the final public hearing that begins at 1 p.m. Check back here for live updates and analysis.