Prince George’s County has 23 delegates in the Maryland House of Delegates. Additionally we have 8 senators for a total of 31 voices in the General Assembly. If the newly proposed map by the Governors Redistricting Advisory Committee is approved by Gov. O’Malley the county could lose a delegate but even more it could see as many as six more minorities in the delegation all at the expense of…white incumbents.
Changes to districts 21, 22, 23, 27 and 47 which are the only legislative districts in the county with white delegates or senators has made being a white elected official in Prince George’s County a dangerous thing. That these proposals were made by a committee with only one African-American is even more shocking.
Prince George’s County has 8 white delegates and one Filipino. The other fourteen are African-American. The county has three African-American senators, one Hispanic senator, and four white senators. However under the proposed map by the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee things might change a lot!
The incumbents in this district should remain safe, including the two white delegates Ben Barnes and Barbara Frush, but changes to the southern portion of the district will impact the safety of Delegate Doyle Niemann in the 47th.
District 22 currently is made up of the communities of Greenbelt, Hyattsville, New Carrollton, and Riverdale, but changes to the map bringing in communities with more blacks such as Lanham, Seabrook, and Glenn Dale could seriously endanger Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Ann Healey. The district has another white delegate in Justin Ross but Ross has proven himself to be a favorite in the black community. While the only African-American delegate in the district Tawanna Gaines out polls them both year after year, Healey has often come in third of the three and in 2006, the last time they faced a challenge, only beat challenger Karren Pope-Onwukwe by 1,355 votes or 6%.
Senator Paul Pinsky on the other hand hasn’t faced a primary challenge since 2002. This could make him out of touch with voters where he hasn’t had to actively campaign for reelection in 9 years now but 12 by the next primary. A district with more black voters for an aging senator (he will be about 64 during the next primary) could make him a target for retirement.
Nobody thought that leadership favorite Senator Douglas JJ Peters would be on the chopping block during redistricting. The chairman of the delegation, Peters is well liked both in Annapolis and his district, but has long feared a well-funded African-American taking him out as almost happened in 2006 when Bobby Henry challenged him and lost by about 2% of the vote. In 2010 Henry made another run for it, but without the funding Peters crushed him for reelection. That could change in the district proposed that makes 23A (the more white district) smaller and expands 23B (the more black district). To make matters more interesting 23A which currently has two delegates will lose one (we will talk about in a moment) and 23B will gain one (it currently has one and he is…black). Does this mean Peters might be out? No because Peters has a good relationship with many parts of his current African-American community and if he does his job right he will keep it, but it does put him on notice.
Delegate James Hubbard on the other hand is gone. Will he retire instead of fighting to keep his seat is the question but if 23A goes from two seats to one will in no way be able to fend off newly elected Delegate Valentino-Smith who crushed him in 2010 by over 6% of the vote. While the two of them ran on the same slate as Sen. Peters and 23B delegate Marvin Holmes, there was no secrete Smith and Hubbard hated each other and Peters preferred Smith over the elder statesman.
The movements to make District 27A a one member seat verses the current two seat and draw out Delegate Vallerio has taken many by surprised. Vallerio much like his senator Mike Miller who is president of the senate, has been in Annapolis forever. Miller also was a member of the committee that came out with this map. Vallerio is well liked by most in the delegation and despite his age still makes it around to events. He also chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee and giving up a chairmanship is not anything many in the county seem interested in doing. However that this move was made might mean that Vallerio has indicated to Miller he desired to step down.
In 2010 Delegate Doyle Niemann ran against the slate of Senator Victor Ramirez, Delegate Jolene Ivey, and newbie Delegate Michael Summers. He ran instead with Senator David Harrington. The Ramirez and Ivey team hasn’t trusted him since and when district 47 goes into an A/B district he can expect to not be on the ticket. In 2006 he lost to newcomer Jolene Ivey by almost 10% and barely beat the other incumbent Rosetta Parker by 3% to keep his seat. In 2002 he barely beat newcomer Victor Ramirez by almost 2% but the difference between him and the losing candidate in 4th place was only about 4%. In 2010, the most recent race he came in second place by beating newcomer Michael Summers with less than 3% of the vote after he was crushed again by Ivey with over 10% of the vote. It will not help him that when the district is split into an A/B seats with B having two and A having one, he will be in the B seat with Ivey and Summers with the A seat being drawn for a Hispanic.
How all of this plays out still depends on a few key things happening;
1) Will Governor Martin O’Malley accept this map as it is written? If he does and presents it to the General Assembly it will become law unless another map is passed by the chambers. That seems unlikely since both presiding officers served as members of the committee that drew this map.
2) If Martin O’Malley does send this map to the General Assembly, will there be enough blow back to pass another map?
3) Will this map stand up in court? From all appearances it will and no one has raised any serious legal questions to the map since it was released last week.
Governor O’Malley will hear comments concerning this map during a public hearing on December 22nd at 10AM in the Legislative Services Building at 90 State Circle in the Joint Hearing Room in Annapolis, MD 21401. Those requesting to speak may sign up in advance by clicking here. To review the map for yourself click here.