Meet Maryland’s redistricting maps, Larry, Moe and Curvy
It would be an understatement to say this hasn’t worked out as intended.
Maryland is currently without a congressional district map for the 2022 elections, the official document that decides who votes for whom.
If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the short version:
Gov. Larry Hogan’s bipartisan commission made a map. Democrats in the legislature ignored it and passed their own.
An Anne Arundel County judge rejected that map as extreme gerrymandering. Democrats drew up a new map.
The judge ruled Friday that she couldn’t approve that one because the governor hasn’t signed off yet – or vetoed it so the Democrats can override him as expected.
Oh, and Brian Frosh, the Maryland attorney general, appealed the judge’s first ruling. That means the third map – if approved – is on hold during the appeal over the first map. If Frosh succeeds, the Democrats’ first map wins.
Head spinning? Yeah, like I said – political slapstick comedy is probably not how this was supposed to go down.
Meanwhile, in Annapolis… The election looms.
The candidates' filing deadline, delayed twice, is now less than two weeks away. The primaries are in July, unless they're postponed again, and anyone could still decide to run for Congress.
What will happen? Who knows. But I can’t help but wonder if all this confusion will make it possible for someone from Annapolis to get into Congress. Could a Rep. Sarah Elfreth or Rep. Gavin Buckley emerge from the shifting lines?
Other people will sort the legal questions, but let’s look at the three maps and what they could mean for Annapolis.
Let’s meet Larry, Moe and Curvy.
Larry, because it’s the one Larry Hogan likes. A bipartisan commission drew it up and the governor argued that kept politics out of the process. Yeah, fat chance.
It would put most of Anne Arundel County into the 3rd District along with Howard County and a smidgeon of Calvert County. Places like Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park would join Baltimore City residents in the 7th.
It would be the first time a majority of Anne Arundel residents would be represented in the House of Representatives by a single person since 1992. That was when Democrats decided they didn’t need Rep. Tom McMillen anymore.
Under Larry, Annapolis would lose its current congressman to redistricting again, only this time it would be Rep. John Sarbanes.
He lives up in Towson, and while it’s legal for someone to represent a district without living there, it is kind of icky. Current boundaries of the 3rd make it one of the worst-drawn districts in the nation, a ridiculous Rorschach test that has strangely given us a pretty good congressman.
Whether you like Sarbanes’s politics, he is the only one you regularly see in Annapolis. The other three representatives defer most constituent services issues from the county to him by informal agreement. Most local elected officials call him a solid partner in getting things done.
Then there’s Moe – there are moe Democrats than Republicans in the General Assembly. That means they almost always get what is best for them.
Annapolis would move from the 3rd to the newly drawn 4th, while Anne Arundel gets cut into three districts rather than the current four. The strangest part, of course, was jumping the 1st District lines across the Chesapeake Bay to include a middle slice of Anne Arundel.
That’s not the first time that’s happened, but it’s odd nonetheless. So odd that Judge Lynne Battaglia rejected this map last month.
In Moe, Annapolis and county residents all the way to Deale would join Prince George’s County voters in the 4th District. The seat will be vacant in the next election, with Rep. Anthony Brown is running for attorney general.
Politically, the map positioned Annapolis between a majority of left-leaning voters to the west and a minority of conservative voters to the south. The good thing about Moe was that it made Annapolis better off than voters across the Severn River, where folks would get saddled with Rep. Andy Harris.
And the less said about Harris’ far-right politics in Annapolis, increasingly a Democratic stronghold, the better.
That brings us to map three, Curvy. Curvy because, well, the judge’s ruling was a curveball.
Battaglia is the only judge ever to say no to Maryland’s congressional maps. The difference is that she applied state law rather than federal. Those rules keep state legislative districts, which elect members of the General Assembly, generally compact and primarily within county or city lines.
Why not, she argued, use them for federal districts?
Her ruling sent state senators scurrying back to their drawing rooms with just days to come up with a new map in time to meet the judge’s deadline. They came up with Curvy, an alternative a little like good ol’ Larry – the map, not the governor – and a little like short-lived Moe.
Annapolis would find itself still in the 3rd District under Curvy, and still without Sarbanes.
He lives in Towson, which would become part of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s 2nd District. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the new 3rd would mash up half of Anne Arundel with Howard County to lean Democratic.
Below the South River, Anne Arundel voters would join the 5th District with Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. It’s also a Democratic lean, keeping House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in a safe seat as long as he wants. He's 83, by the way.
On CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday, Hogan wouldn’t say if he’d approve the Curly or veto it. Frosh hasn’t said what grounds he would use to appeal Battaglia’s ruling on Moe.
No matter which map wins, things are going to change.
Does the eventual map give Annapolis voters more clout? No matter which one becomes official, the city will remain a small part of a district with more than 700,000 residents. That’s just the math.
In Curly, city voters would find more in common politically with Howard County Democrats than Republicans from Pasadena joining the new district. If Sarbanes decides not to run in the 3rd District, it becomes an open seat – the only competitive path to Congress.
Could there finally, in modern times, be a member of Congress from Annapolis?
Here’s what counts in a race for Congress.
Money. Campaign financing is probably No. 1. We're talking millions.
Friends. Getting elected without deep support from party brass, community leaders, and average Joe/Jane supporters is tough.
Organization. Running a campaign is hard, and knowing how to do it can be essential to winning.
It sure helps to have a message, too. “It’s my turn,” or “someone has to do it” won’t work. “I’m better than the alternative” is only marginally better.
There have been members of Congress from Annapolis, just none in modern history and not one of them is particularly memorable.
One of the first, Gabrielle Duvall, was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where some historians rank him as the “most insignificant” justice in history.
Alexander Contee Hanson was a newspaper publisher at the start of the War of 1812 and may have killed two men in a mob that stormed his office in Baltimore. One of Hanson’s defenders is considered the first person to die for a free press in the United States.
U.S. Sen. Reverdy Johnson is the most famous member of Congress from Annapolis. He is better known, though, as an attorney on historic legal fights like the Dred Scott case or defending Mary Surratt, who was arrested and executed after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
There’s no guarantee that electing someone from Annapolis will be a shining moment in the republic’s history. But it is helpful to have someone who understands a community in a position of power.
Would someone like Buckley or Elfreth, both popular Democrats, even want this job? To me, it's a hard sell. Congress seems like a very dysfunctional place.
Depending on the success of Larry, Moe, or Curvy, it could happen. Or, there could be a fourth map in the wings with an entirely different story.
If you’ve followed along with my Three Stooges references in naming these maps, I hope you’ll pardon me if I add one more:
If it is out there, waiting to be called, dare we label Map No. 4 Shemp?