Hogan Launches New Front in War on Gerrymandering
By William F. Zorzi
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he would sign on to a nonpartisan friend-of-the-court brief filed in a gerrymandering case now before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges Maryland’s congressional districts as redrawn and approved in 2011.
The case, Benisek v. Lamone, was brought by seven Republicans from Maryland’s 6th Congressional District who maintain the redrawn lines violate their First Amendment rights.
Hogan (R) would be signing on to a yet-unfiled amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs as an individual, though identified as governor of Maryland. There would be no cost to taxpayers related his action, said Douglass V. Mayer, the governor’s communications director.
Also signing onto the brief, Hogan said, is Gray Davis, a Democrat who was California governor from 1999 to 2003. He urged other governors to join what he called a “bipartisan effort,” as well.
“This isn’t a fight between the right and the left; this is a fight between right and wrong,” Hogan said.
Additionally, Hogan announced Wednesday that he would again propose legislation to reform the redistricting process by putting it in the hands of a nonpartisan commission, a bill similar to one that has been killed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in the last two years.
Last year, in its stead, the General Assembly approved its own legislation creating an independent commission to draw Maryland’s congressional districts, provided that five other states sign onto the regional pact. Hogan vetoed that legislation.
Without using their names, the governor Wednesday lashed out at Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., House Speaker Michael E. Busch and former Gov. Martin O’Malley, all Democrats, who were deposed last year in the case.
During the depositions, “the former governor admitted to violating the law,” Hogan said.
“‘It was my intent to create a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican,’” Hogan quoted O’Malley as testifying in his deposition.
Hogan went on to make similar remarks about a Washington, D.C., consultant hired to assist in the drawing of the congressional lines.
“This kind of arrogant behavior and political subterfuge is exactly why Marylanders are completely fed up with politics as usual and why they are rightfully angry at Republicans and Democrats in Washington and in Annapolis,” Hogan said.
The question of overriding the governor’s veto of the legislature’s version of redistricting reform came before the Senate last Friday, but was put off until later.
Sen. Craig J. Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat who was the primary sponsor of the 2017 bill, asked that the vetoed legislation be special ordered for a possible override on Monday, but Miller suggested moving the date until the 89th day or 90th day of the session, prompting sporadic laughter from the floor.
“We might need it,” Miller said.
So Zucker asked that it be taken up on the 90th day of the session, April 9, when the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the year.
The Senate approved the motion with no discussion.