By Len Lazarick
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s congressional redistricting plan is whizzing toward enactment, as the Senate passed the map Tuesday 33-13 with one Democrat and all dozen Republicans in the body voting against it.
The House Rules Committee quickly passed the measure with little discussion on a party-line 18-5 vote, with all Democrats voting for the bill. The House plans several hours of debate Wednesday.
“The biggest mistake of all is ramrodding this down the throats of the people of Maryland,” said Senate Republican Leader Nancy Jacobs, Harford-Cecil.
Republicans criticized the plan for targeting Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett by adding a large swath of Montgomery County to the 6th Congressional District, and removing Carroll County and northern Frederick, which have been in the district for decades.
“This is a gerrymandered map to support a national political goal,” said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick-Carroll.
Republicans and some African-Americans and Hispanics criticized the map for failing to carve out a third congressional district for Maryland’s growing minority population.
But only one black Democratic senator, Anthony Muse, pastor of an Upper Marlboro megachurch, spoke out against the governor’s plan.
“This plan does not reflect the best interest of the people I was sent here to represent,” Muse said. “It pits the party against the people.”
He said African-American voters are some of the Democratic Party’s “most loyal supporters.”
“Where are the rewards to match the loyalty?” Muse asked. “Why shouldn’t there be more equal representation?”
But other African-American senators supported the plan, which maintains two majority black districts and the districts for four white Democratic incumbents.
“I believe this map is a map that we will all benefit from,” said Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County. “We need seniority in Washington,” and the governor’s plan protects that. (Brinkley pointed out the map seeks to oust Maryland’s most senior member of the majority GOP in the U.S. House.)
Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City, said the Legislative Black Caucus she chairs had hired a consultant and developed its own maps. “None of these maps included a third African-American district,” Pugh said.
Republicans had offered alternative maps that showed a third district with a majority made up of both African-Americans and Hispanics.