In November 2002, Rep. Connie Morella, a Republican who represented Maryland’s 8th Congressional district, including Montgomery County, lost the seat she had held for 16 years. Morella had been popular among her constituents, and was known for a moderate voting record and attending constituent events.
“That Connie Morella would attend an opening of an envelope,” one constituent quipped.
But following the 2000 Census, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and Maryland Senate president Mike Miller, both Democrats, redrew her district to try to force her out in 2002. She fought a hard campaign against then-state Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr. but lost narrowly, 48 percent to 52 percent.
Following the defeat, Morella, who was a former English professor, had considered doing work with the Shakespeare Theatre and Arena Stage, but in July 2003, President George W. Bush appointed her U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international trade organization headquartered in Paris.
“I went from Parris Glendening to Paris, France. Who won that one?” Morella joked during an interview on a recent Friday.
Morella served with the OECD until 2007. She spent the following year as a resident fellow at Harvard University, where she taught a course titled “An Endangered Species: The Moderate in the House of Representatives.”
Today, she is 80 years old, but maintains an active schedule. She is a resident ambassador at American University’s Women & Politics Institute, and taught a course on women, politics and public policy. She is a commissioner with the American Battle Monuments Commission, an independent agency that oversees U.S. military memorials and cemeteries overseas.
She is also vice president of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress.
A Republican in the old Nelson Rockefeller sense, Morella was considered one of the most liberal Republicans in the House during her tenure. Conditions on the Hill have turned vitriolic since she left, and gridlock is the norm. Would she want to serve in Congress now?
“No,” she said without hesitation. “I loved Congress. It was a privilege to be able to serve. I say gerrymandering is part of the problem. Money chasing and the fact that they are so darned busy. They don’t know each other.”