Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed the state’s new congressional map into law Monday, ending a potential legal battle in court with the primary election just months away.
Although the eight congressional districts still provide a major advantage for the Democratic Party with seven of the areas overseen by a Democrat, the Republican governor said it’s much better than the previous map approved by the legislature during a special session in December.
“This is a huge win for democracy and for improvement in the process,” Hogan said during a press briefing in Annapolis. “This map is a huge step in the right direction. It’s not perfect. There’s still some issues that could be corrected, but it’s miles away from the gerrymandered map thrown out by the court.”
The legislature had to redraw a new congressional map after Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynna A. Battaglia sided with several Republicans who filed a suit against the map approved in December. The judge wrote that the map “fails under constitutional muster” and was “a product of extreme partisan gerrymandering.”
Republican lawmakers still disapproved of a congressional map the majority-Democrat legislature approved Wednesday.
Less than an hour after the vote, the state Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a notice of intent to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Frosh’s office ultimately chose to withdraw the lawsuit, clearing the way for Hogan to sign the new map into law.
“We are pleased Governor Hogan has agreed to sign the proposed congressional redistricting map approved by the General Assembly,” the attorney general said. “This map, like the one previously passed by the General Assembly, is constitutional and fair. Both sides have agreed to dismiss their appeals, and our state can move forward to the primary election.”
With this decision, Battaglia’s doesn’t need to make any additional ruling in court and the map is now set ahead of the July 19 primary. It also keeps these districts in place during a process done every decade to reassess the state’s population based on U.S. Census data.
Democrats sought to extend the 1st Congressional District across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into Democratic neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County.
The new congressional map eliminates that proposed extension and likely provides a better chance of reelection for Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s only Republican member in Congress and supporter of former President Donald Trump. The district runs north and south with a heavy GOP influence along the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.
Other districts received some changes that will affect Prince George’s County, which houses the highest number of registered Democrats in the state.
A map of the 4th Congressional District now encompasses the University of Maryland in College Park, Hyattsville and Greenbelt. The district will also include parts of Montgomery County and portions of Anne Arundel County are now in the neighboring 5th Congressional District overseen by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland).
The 5th Congressional District now includes all of the Upper Marlboro area and maintains the Southern Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s.
“While I am disappointed that the new Fifth District does not include College Park – including my beloved alma mater the University of Maryland – Greenbelt, Hyattsville, and other Prince George’s communities, I will continue to champion them in Congress on the issues that I’ve fought for throughout my career,” Hoyer said in a statement. “I look forward to running in the new Fifth Congressional District and reflecting the priorities of its residents in my work in Congress.”
The 4th Congressional District will have a new leader because Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) is vacating the seat in a bid to succeed the retiring Frosh as m.
Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Glenarden, who’s running for the open seat in the 4th Congressional District and is a graduate of the University of Maryland, said the area’s Latino population increases to 25%. The district also has the highest number of African Americans at 55%.
“It makes it even more diverse,” he said about the district. “I like the changes. I think it makes the maps closer to what the public would expect for them to look like.”
Meanwhile, retired Maryland Courts of Appeal Judge Alan M. Wilner issued a 245-page report Monday in favor of the General Assembly utilizing the state’s 47 legislative maps approved in December.
The court of appeals, the state’s highest court, must still review Wilner’s recommendation and make a final decision on the case.