After Tossing Out Red Meat On Redistricting, Jealous Softens Rhetoric

After seeming to suggest late last week that, as governor, he would seek to redraw the district lines to elect an all-Democratic congressional delegation, Benjamin T. Jealous sought to soften his tone during an appearance Monday. “I personally founded two organizations — the Democracy Initiative and Our Revolution — to pass federal legislation to require federal nonpartisan redistricting all across this country,” Jealous said during a luncheon of the Montgomery County Woman’s Democratic Club at a restaurant in Chevy Chase. Responding to an audience question, he added: “We all have an interest in moving beyond these games of partisan gerrymandering — but the only way we get there that is sustainable is that we lead regionally and we lead nationally. That’s my track record — and that’s what you can expect from me as governor.”    In tone and substance, Jealous’ comments were in contrast to a speech to the Baltimore County Democratic Party Unity Dinner in Timonium last Thursday, at which he tossed some rhetorical red meat to the crowd on the issue. “Our congressional delegation is on the ballot this November — not just their reelection, but their districts,” Jealous was quoted by The Sun as saying. “I would send eight Democrats to Congress and he [Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.] would send four — and four Republicans.” Jealous drew applause when he declared, “If you like Andy Harris and you want him, times four, vote for Larry Hogan.” Harris, who represents Eastern Shore-based District 1, is currently the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation. “But if you want leadership like [Reps. John] Sarbanes and [Dutch] Ruppersberger and [Elijah] Cummings and [Jamie] Raskin and the rest of our great congressional delegation, you better vote Democratic up and down the ballot,” he added, according to The Sun report. Democrats currently have a 2-1 advantage over the Republicans in statewide voter registration. Whoever is the next governor will exert significant leverage, in conjunction with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in determining the state’s congressional district map, following the 2020 U.S. Census. On Monday, Jealous sought to point a finger at the Hogan campaign for some of the blowback he received over his comments a few days earlier. “The Hogan spin machine was busy having fun with me over the weekend,” he gibed. “I have said that as governor, I would reach out to the governor of Virginia to develop a compact where both of us would disarm — and to redistrict in a way that is nonpartisan in both states,” he said, while adding: “I have also said that, given the reality in all the other states south of the Mason-Dixon [line] and in many states north of us, including Pennsylvania, I will not have Maryland unilaterally disarm.” Continued Jealous: “Unlike Larry Hogan, who wants to disarm unilaterally because it will serve his party’s interests, I am willing to take leadership — as I have done consistently as a civil rights leader — to make sure we provide regional and national leadership.” Hogan has advocated that redistricting be turned over to a nonpartisan commission. There are currently four Western states — Arizona, California, Idaho and Washington — where congressional redistricting is handled by an independent commission. While Jealous’ comments last week could be interpreted as a suggestion that he would seek as governor to defeat Harris by redrawing the current 1st District, Jealous said Monday: “When I said that, as governor, I am prepared to make sure we send eight Democrats to Congress, what I meant was this: I think Andy Harris is so bad that, in a 34 percent Democratic district, he’s about to lose. I also have said that I believe Jesse Colvin can win.” If Jealous is behind Colvin, the 34-year old former Army intelligence officer isn’t reciprocating: Like a number of other Democratic candidates on the Eastern Shore and elsewhere in the state, Colvin is keeping his political distance from Jealous. Colvin said in an interview last week that he hasn’t made an endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial race — and doesn’t plan to do so between now and Nov. 6.

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