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October 3, 2011

A Pathetic Protest Part Two

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Last week, we reviewed the underwhelming and repetitive protests targeting Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R., MD 6th). The idea of a bunch of ex-hippies and Democratic Party insiders regularly gathering to fuss about a guy they cannot beat through the electoral process just gets tiresome.


Now it seems as though state Democrats have decided to get tough. Instead of settling for weak protests of a small handful of disgruntled Democrats, they're now bringing out the big guns, the cartographers!


Census 2010 gives the governors of all 50 states the chance to redraw congressional and state legislative districts. The purpose of the exercise is supposedly to balance representation, acknowledging the historic Supreme Court’s One Man, One Vote rule.


One popular map, circulated widely by influential Democrats, has the 6th District running from Garrett County to Frederick County, dipping down to take in the City of Frederick and southern Frederick County. The proposed district then drops all the way down to Rockville, shifting the voting population from the rural western and north central portions of the state.


This massive change creates a new district where it would be virtually impossible for a Republican candidate to be elected to Congress. Northern and eastern Frederick County would shift into the 8th congressional district, currently held by Democrat Chris Van Hollen. Rep. John Sarbanes (D., MD 3rd) would then get Carroll County and a small portion of the eastern parts of the former 6th District, and Rep. Andy Harris (R., MD 1st) would gain a strengthened GOP voter base by picking up some Harford and Cecil County precincts.


Talk about your forced retirements! There is simply no way Representative Bartlett could win this district, despite his strong voter appeal. The old logic has changed. Instead of leaving two safe GOP congressional districts in a very blue state, Democrats appear determined to widen the gulf of disgust and disenfranchisement felt by Maryland Republicans by ensuring that the next 6th District representative comes from the Rockville/Gaithersburg metroplex.


That will be fun to watch. Imagine the discomfort of a new progressive Democrat congressman, most likely current Maryland State Sen. Rob Garagiola (D, Montgomery), having to walk in a parade in Oakland, or walking through the Ag Fair south of Hagerstown after voting to support political ideas that are antithetical to the values of those areas!


While Mr. Garagiola, or some other high-profile Montgomery County Democrat would likely be the next 6th district congressman under this plan, scores of prominent Republicans fear the damage this map would do to their own political futures.


Former state senator-turned-GOP-state-party leader (and self-funded radio host) Alex Mooney, who never denied his strong desire to furnish an office in the Rayburn House Office Building, would be forced to watch from the gallery.


Popular incumbent State Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) would probably just continue his successful run in Annapolis. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, rumored to have been toying with a congressional run, might be better off under the brim of that wide-brimmed hat.


Sen. Christopher Shank (R, Washington) has also pined for a shot at the 6th District congressional seat. Chris has all of Mooney's conservative credentials, but he has one thing Mooney lacks: the ability to work with others.


Major questions will haunt such a tortured gerrymandering effort. The word gerrymander was created as a critique of a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under Gov. Elbridge Gerry. In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his political party. When the map was unveiled, one of the districts in the Boston area was so oddly drawn that the Boston Globe suggested it resembled a salamander.


Maybe the redrawn 6th District won't look like a lizard, but the motives behind the drawing will undoubtedly be slimy. It's reasonable to expect that state Republicans will file a legal objection to the process, they have before, and they will do so again.


The larger question is how the courts will view whatever district lines emerge from this process. Back in 2001-2002, Gov. Parris Glendenning drew a map that took the 3B legislative sub district from southern Frederick County all the way out to the prison complex south of Hagerstown. It looked like a skinny finger, pointing from Buckeystown over to Halfway.


The goal was simple, to increase the number of likely Democratic Party voters to offset the conservative nature of the rest of Frederick and Washington County. Some suggest the district was drawn to benefit a particular former state delegate and prominent conservative Democrat.


In the end, the courts tossed the drawing out on its ear. That fate may await whatever drawing the O'Malley Administration produces, especially if the goal is blatantly and obviously to the benefit of the ruling party in Maryland.


Then, that small band of protestors will have something else to complain about!


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