GOP proposes drawing Harris out of district
Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican lawmaker who captured Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in last year’s midterm election, would have his primary residence drawn out of his district under congressional boundaries proposed Tuesday by his own state party.
The redistricting proposal released by Maryland Republicans would limit the 1st District to the Eastern Shore, Harford County and a small portion of Anne Arundel County. The congressman's Cockeysville home would wind up inside a district represented by Democratic Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.
Ryan Nawrocki, a spokesman for Harris, said that scenario – even if it was approved by the General Assembly -- wouldn’t necessarily force Ruppersberger and Harris to face off against each other in the 2012 election. Harris owns a home in Cambridge where he spends about half his time, Nawrocki said.
“The party was attempting to draw a map that is compact and doesn’t really take partisanship into consideration,” Nawrocki said. “The congressman does have a place in Cambridge. He’s had a home there for a long time.”
The GOP map is one of the first redistricting proposals to emerge publicly even as lawmakers are working on maps behind the scenes. GOP leaders, who will have little to no influence on the redistricting process, touted their proposal as more fair than the current meandering boundaries drawn by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.
The proposal calls for compact districts that intersect less often with county and city boundaries. Baltimore, for instance, would have a single House member, instead of the three who represent it now. Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s district would no longer include Harford County – but would otherwise remain about the same. Ruppersberger’s seat would include only portions of Baltimore and Howard counties.
“For ten years we have lived with some of the worst gerrymandered congressional districts in the country, purely because one political party chose to put their electoral interests over what’s best for Maryland voters,” the state’s GOP chairman, Alex X. Mooney, said in a statement. “The Maryland GOP has taken the first step forward to show Maryland voters that fair congressional districts are possible.”
State law grants elected officials wide latitude in declaring an official address – they do not have to primarily live in the district they represent – but candidates who do not live among voters generally face pointed criticism from opponents. Harris purchased the Cambridge home in 2008, state records show, but lists his Cockeysville home as his primary address for tax purposes.
The Maryland GOP plan comes a day after Gov. Martin O’Malley named a five-member advisory panel on redistricting. The General Assembly is expected to consider whatever proposal emerges from that process in a special session later this year.
“We are confident that they will review plans submitted by all Marylanders -- including the Republican Party-- and develop recommendations that will reflect the growing diversity of our state and comply with all legal standards,” Matthew Verghese of the state Democratic Party said in a statement.
“The party will win elections in every corner of our state at the conclusion of the congressional and legislative redistricting process,” he said. “Maryland voters have consistently sided with Democratic values and leaders, and we are confident that they will continue to do so.”
In other redistricting news: A map of proposed congressional districts posted on Fox 45’s website created some buzz over the weekend but it turns out to be nothing more than an image meant to illustrate the station’s story on O’Malley’s advisory commission. In fact, the map came from an item first published on the political blog Maryland Politics Watch.