State Roundup, June 19, 2018

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SUPREMES PUNT GERRYMANDERING CASE: The Supreme Court on Monday declined a request by Republican voters in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District to reject a district map they said was unfairly crafted to benefit Democrats. The high court also ruled against a challenge to a map in Wisconsin that had been contested by Democrats. Jeff Barker of the Sun writes that the court’s rulings on technical grounds did not address the larger question in both cases: Just how far may mapmakers of either party go in pursuit of political advantage?

  • The Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of partisan redistricting without providing the guardrails or reform that good government advocates have long sought, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes. “The Supreme Court ducked. Or as someone else put it — they punted,” said journalist Kenneth Jost, a longtime legal reporter and author of “Supreme Court Yearbook.” “They studiously did not decide either of the cases.”
  • Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that the high court did not rule on whether electoral maps drawn in Wisconsin or Maryland gave unfair advantages to political parties. “It’s a difficult decision to wrap my mind around,” said Washington County Republican Central Committee Chairman Jerry DeWolf, one of the plaintiffs in the Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone. “I’m disappointed the court did not tackle the issue — they just punted it down the road,” he said.
  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record quotes Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause: “This is by no means the end of the road. The Supreme Court is still actively looking for the right case to establish a standard for what constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. With Wisconsin and Maryland’s cases still alive, and Common Cause’s North Carolina case awaiting review by the Supreme Court, the fight to establish constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering is very much alive.”

MD CONGRESSMEN ADDRESS IMMIGRATION: Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, said Monday he was working with colleagues to increase “family facilities” at the Southwest border so immigration authorities can stop separating children from parents. Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Van Hollen flew back from a weekend trip to Texas, where he inspected facilities on the front lines of the Trump administration policy, including an immigration processing facility in McAllen and a center in Brownsville where about 1,500 children are being held, Jeff Barker of the Sun writes.

NO MIGRANTS, IDLE CRAB HOUSES: Many Eastern Shore crab houses hoping for a lucky break from the federal government now expect to remain mostly idle through the summer, without the migrant laborers needed to perform the painstaking picking to produce tubs of jumbo lump meat, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

HOGAN CONTINUES TO PULL IN BUCKS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) raised more than a million dollars between May 16 and June 10, his campaign said Friday, building his fundraising lead over the Democrats vying to challenge him in November, writes Arelis Hernandez for the Post. Former NAACP head Ben Jealous, who is considered a front-runner in the Democratic primary race along with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, reported raising about $381,000, more than twice as much as Baker, who raised $180,000.

CHALLENGES TO STATUS QUO: So this is how Emperor Valentinian felt when Attila the Hun’s horde approached the gates of Rome. Political radicals and reactionaries — the equivalent of ancient Rome’s barbarians — are at Maryland’s electoral gates. Barry Rascovar in his Political Maryland blog writes that from the far left and far right, they are clamoring for Trump-like success in this state’s June 26 primary. Some may succeed — unlike Attila, who was persuaded by Pope Leo I to plunder elsewhere. Overthrowing Maryland’s accepted order is the flavor of the month. Outsiders are vying for support from voters fed up with the status quo.

DELEGATES IN TROUBLE: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that several House members – Democrats and Republicans – could be in trouble on June 26. Some will no doubt survive. And there are at least a few others who could be included here but narrowly escaped the list. We’ve put them in an “honorable mention” category. They could lose, too. Or win. The list includes Dels. Curt Anderson of Baltimore, James Gilchrist of Montgomery County and Richard Impallaria of Harford County.

OAKS FORFEITS $5,000: A former state senator awaiting sentencing on federal fraud charges has agreed to forfeit $5,000, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The forfeiture, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, is part of a plea agreement reached between federal prosecutors and former Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks, a Baltimore Democrat.

FIGHT TURNS NASTY FOR ONE SENATE SEAT: The Democratic primary contest for the District 18 seat left open by state Sen. Richard Madaleno’s gubernatorial run has been the most visible—and arguably the nastiest—state legislative race in Montgomery County this year. Reports filed late Friday with the State Board of Elections also show it’s gotten very expensive, writes Louis Peck in Bethesda Beat.

ALSOBROOKS GETS VA ENDORSEMENT: Prince George’s County executive candidate Angela Alsobrooks got a boost from across the Potomac River on Monday, appearing with Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) outside an early voting site in Fort Washington. Fairfax, who is the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia, endorsed Alsobrooks, a fellow Duke University alum who is vying to become the first woman to lead Prince George’s County, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

DEVELOPERS GIVE TO ALMOND SUPER PAC: Tens of thousands of dollars from Baltimore County developers quietly poured into a Super PAC to benefit Vicki L. Almond late last week, allowing mailings for her Baltimore County executive bid to be sent to voters in the final week of the campaign, William Zorzi of Maryland Matters writes. More than half of the $30,000 given to Baltimore County Votes PAC by developers — $18,000 — was contributed by Caves Valley Partners, a politically well-connected Towson-based concern, or by limited liability companies controlled by the firm.

UPDATE ON COURTHOUSE OFFICES: Maryland Reporter’s June 8 story, At bottom of ballot, partisan candidates vie for administrative roles, has been updated with a correction and a letter in response from the former Howard County register of wills to claims made in the story by her successor.

TIME TO CHANGE PROCESS, CHANGE THE BENCH: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that out of all the races on which the Capital reports, the ones for Circuit Court judge stand out: Virtually all the candidates dislike the process. But now, Gov. Larry Hogan has an opportunity to change the process and change the bench.

MD DEMS BACK OPIOID ACT: WMAR-TV is reporting that the six Democrats who represent Maryland in the House of Representatives, and the state’s two Democratic Senators, announced their joint support of the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act in a joint statement Monday. Also known as the CARE Act, the bill would provide $100 billion in long-term funding to address the opioid crisis, helping prevent and treat substance use disorders.