A five-member commission that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley named on Monday to help redraw the state’s legislative districts includes three powerful Democrats, a citizen who has contributed to the governor’s campaign, and a former Republican lawmaker criticized for siding with O’Malley.
With unusual timing, O’Malley’s office released the names of the five on the afternoon of July Fourth – months later than expected, based on an initial timeline laid out by his administration.
Raquel Guillory, O’Malley’s communications director, said no planning went into the holiday release. “It was announced when the work was done,” she said. But observers and some frequent critics of O’Malley’s administration charged that the composition of the board explained why O’Malley may have sought to not draw much attention to it.
“Maryland is one of many states where redistricting is a partisan endeavor,” said Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “The goal of this group will be to draw lines that benefit the Democratic Party. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.”
O’Malley named his longtime aide, Jeannie D. Hitchcock, as the commission’s chair. Hitchcock is currently O’Malley’s secretary of appointments and served as his deputy mayor in Baltimore, where she was involved in the state’s last round of redistricting.
Maryland’s longtime Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are the two other Democrats. Their opinions are expected to factor heavily in any recommendations the board makes to the governor.
The Republican on the commission is former Del. James J. King (R-Anne Arundel). King had some legislative successes in his four years in the House, but was dogged during most of his term by conservatives for siding with O’Malley on a vote to send the issue of approving slots to a statewide referendum.
The citizen on the committee is Richard Stewart, a Prince George’s County businessman who contributed to the governor’s first run for office and who served on O’Malley’s transition team.
The commission, formally called the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Redistricting, is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Annapolis to set a schedule for public hearings.
It’s charged with forming recommendations for how to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts when the General Assembly reconvenes this fall, likely in mid-October.
The group also will recommend a new map for state legislative districts, which lawmakers will have to consider early next year.