By Hassan Giordano, Examiner.com/GCOMM Media
(ANNAPOLIS - October 15, 2011) - The Congressional Redistricting process seems to have taken another detour in the course mapped out by the Democratic Governor and his legislative cronies; while offering a map that has black legislators divided based on the possibility of weakening their political strength. Yet, while certain African American legislative leaders remain committed to the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee’s proposed map, Black Political Action Committees from around the state stand united in their dissent of such a proposal – even partnering with unlikely allies such as the state’s Republican Party.
“This is not about being offered 60% of what we want, when we make up 100% of the electorate who will ultimately be effected,” said 41st Delegate Jill P. Carter. Referencing the 9% growth in population across Maryland, Carter refused to hear the argument made by the caucus’ Chair Catherine Pugh, and others who chose to side with the Governor’s plan, that only offered the caucus a small percentage of what they thought was rightfully due to the majority of minority voters throughout Maryland. “We cannot continue to accept crumbs off the table and be so quick to accept the Governor’s terms without proper demand in ensuring that our constituents are well represented. Delegate Braveboy has worked diligently throughout the summer to come up with the best possible map that minorities are rightfully due, yet these consistently conforming [explicit] officials feel it necessary to continuously give in to our ‘boy wonder Governor’, rather than taking a stance for those who actually put them into elected office.”
This sentiment was equally felt by other black caucus members who stormed out of Saturday’s noon scheduled meeting, in which the LBC Chair, Senator C. Pugh (D-40), allowed Governor O’Malley officials Joseph Brice and Jean Hitchcock to present the map proposed by the GRAC committee in which they diligently worked on for months. Yet, as Brice, O’Malley’s chief legislative aide, reportedly made the case for why the caucus should stand united behind this map, Hitchcock had to address the attitudes presented by some legislators, regarding such a late date proposal that seemed to be forced down their throats. “I’m wondering why certain members weren’t even invited to this meeting and now you’re expecting us to accept a map obviously drawn to subsidize the black voter population for the long-term strengthening of the white Democratic power structure,” questioned one Prince George’s County representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity based on the confidentiality of the meeting.
While the meeting seemed to be a three-hour prolonged series of emotional debate, resulting in no formal action given by the caucus - as a group of dissenting members left before the vote took place, leaving those still in attendance without a quorum - the caucus chair expects to bring the matter before the caucus again on Monday morning, before the ‘Special Session’ in Annapolis begins. However, though the caucus remained divided in their stance towards which map best represents the interests of Maryland’s minorities, a group of black PACs from around the state are clearly behind an alternative map! Baltimore’s dominant PAC, known as IMPAC (the Independent Movement Political Action Committee), has joined forces with the PG County based Fannie Lou Hamer PAC, which has taken the lead on this issue over the past few months. Being led by Carletta Fellows, yet advised by one of the nation’s leading experts on Congressional Redistricting, this PAC has joined with Republican members such as Senator E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Delegate Michael Hough (R-3), who are reported to have drawn up an alternative map that will be introduced on Monday at the start of the special session.
“It is clear that the minorities of this state have not been considered when constructing the map we currently see being proposed by Maryland’s Governor through this redistricting committee,” said Fannie Lou Hamer PAC spokesman and advisor Radamase Cabrera. “These lines don’t come close to adequately representing the population growth we’ve seen amongst minorities, nor the geographical lines of the state; and if the black caucus are going to remain lapdogs for Martin O’Malley, clearly scared of the Governor based on their legislative lines being up for grabs next, then outside groups such as the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC and others will have to pick up the slack to ensure fair representation in this congressional redistricting process.” Cabrera, a former aide to the Congressional Black Caucus who has been in the forefront of congressional redistricting efforts for the past two decades, is hesitant in believing that the weakened black caucus will do what is right for Maryland residents, and force the Governor to redraw the lines of his proposed map; therefore he, and others, are looking towards a possible legal challenge.
“The Supreme Court has been real clear as to the issue relative to redistricting, first using the standard of intent v effect, which saw the 4th congressional district lines drawn based on such standards; however, Sandra Day O’Connor believed that to be too vague, therefore the standard now is based on the ‘totality of circumstances’, which I believe we can prove that the lines being proposed by Governor O’Malley won’t withstand a court challenge,” said Cabrera. Two maps are said to be introduced on Monday, one from Senator Pipkin, and the other proposed by 5th District Republican Senator Joe Getty (which was reported by this Examiner here); both of which would see three districts composed of majority-minority districts, ensuring the current two districts held by African American’s (the 3rd and the 7th) would remain minority based, while offering another district to be offered up to the growing minority base.
“Getty’s map speaks volumes to assisting minorities gain a third, 65% minority-majority district, however it would not pass the Jingle’s test, which is factored in when courts rule on the fairness of redistricting – based on the 1986 case known as Thornburg v Gingles,” says Cabrera. However, he believes the proposed Pipkin/Hough map would not only pass such tests, it would bring forth the best possible map for the voting base of Maryland in its entirety. Yet despite what either map does for minorities across the state, if African American legislators sell out to the will of Governor O’Malley and the map proposed by his redistricting committee, it will be mute; for Maryland will then be stuck with a map most African American’s believe doesn’t speak to anything but the political will of white Democrats controlling the state. “When I suggested to the Governor’s aides that it would make more sense to connect Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County through the 5th [Congressional District], they almost had a heart attack and explained that they didn’t want to hurt Steny [Hoyer]; but I guess its okay to hurt Donna [Edwards] huh,” stated Prince George’s County Delegate Tiffany Alston (D-24), explaining certain parts of the closed-door meeting.
The outspoken leadership of delegates Alston and Carter were witnessed last session, when their efforts in securing funding for education in minority districts based on the “Thornton Formula” trumped gay rights legislation in committee, which eventually led to the bill’ failure on the House floor. “I don’t know when these folks in the [black] caucus are going to realize that the concept of negotiations aren’t based on jumping at the first offer made, but rather a beneficial give and take between both parties; where each side is satisfied,” explained Alston. “We certainly are not happy, or satisfied, by a map that was given to us last minute and shoved down our throats as a take it or leave it type of offer; that has never been an effective negotiating tactic in my opinion!” And many of their frustrations were made known to not only those in the room, but were also told to be relayed to their Democratic leader – Governor O’Malley.
“Nat Oaks tried to tell the Governor’s people to go back and tell him that the caucus was okay with what had been offered up,” said one black caucus member. “Yet Senator Muse put a halt to that real quick, when he interjected that the Baltimore Democrat had absolutely no authority to speak on behalf of the entire caucus!” Especially when half the caucus was not present at the Saturday meeting, and those who were in attendance were never a part of the long process orchestrated almost single-handily by Caucus Vice-Chair, Delegate Aisha Braveboy (D-25), a PG County Democrat.
“That woman [Braveboy] spent half the summer working on behalf of the caucus and the African American electorate of Maryland, orchestrating public meetings, designing maps equitable for all and working with the highly paid advisor we hired; only to be stabbed in the back by Senator Pugh, who mind you Braveboy spent the other half of her summer down in Baltimore campaigning for, in her [Pugh’s] run for Mayor,” said that same PG County caucus member. Many have made the case that quiet a few black legislators are scared to buck the Governor’s will based on their own legislative lines being put in jeopardy come next month, when O’Malley introduces the state’s redrawn map. “It’s fine that people are suspicious of O’Malley’s retribution, however do they not see that numbers speak volumes, and they’d have a greater effect in covering one another if they were all united behind protecting one another,” questioned GCOMM Media contributor, Shaun Louis. “These cowards will allow him to get away with pushing them to the side, in which he will then see where he has them; and never respect their position on anything later on down the line!”
“And that’s exactly what this bully Governor hopes to accomplish, as he knows that he can count on those African American “leaders”, who’d rather do as ‘masta’ says than lose their prestigious position(s), which are only the scraps off the table that were given to them for situations such as this,” states a disgusted Cabreras. Yet while the caucus remains divided, and the PACs remain united; there are still only few a legislators to be persuaded that this map is not a replica of the geographical and racial population shift that Maryland has witnessed over the past decade – and joined by the entire GOP caucus, they can stop such an attempt. Therefore, for those who’d rather err on the side of caution and side with a map that reflects the best possible lines drawn based on fairness, in accordance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; rather than voting for the best possible political map that benefits Democrats and the current white male incumbency – then stand up for what is right now, or fall for anything come January when your legislative lines are redrawn!
**The last quote was originally attributed to Delegate Carter instead of Mr. Cabreras in haste, as I was hurrying to publish this article under a constraining time deadline; I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused Delegate Jill Carter or the reader!? Thanks...