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Rep. Harris not ruling out running in another district

Courtesy of Andy Harris for Congress
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris

The General Assembly meets next week in a special session to redraw the congressional district lines. The outcome could determine whether Congressman Andy Harris decides to run in another district.

The legislature’s Redistricting Advisory Commission adopted a map on a party line vote last week that would make the first district more competitive for the six term Republican.

Harris says the map is clearly aimed at him.

“The Democrats can’t defeat me at the ballot box so they’re going to defeat me on the gerrymander vote, or at least they’re going to attempt to.”

Harris said he is not ruling out running in another congressional district, depending on the map the legislature approves. Members of Congress do not have to live in their districts.

“It depends on who, which other candidates, Republican candidates pop up in some of the other districts,” Harris said. “My name recognition is fairly statewide, especially among Republicans. And again, I could run in at least three or four of the districts.”

Several people who want Harris out of Congress did not mince words at a recent hearing held by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission. They want the first district lines redrawn to make it more likely Harris will lose.

Beth Connor, who owns a home in the first district, called Harris a threat to our democracy by “turning his back on our constitution by not certifying several states after President Biden’s win.

“Andy Harris chose to back the losing candidate and his nefarious actions and his promotion of insurrection,” she said.

Gregory Pearson, who lives in the first district, put it this way.

“In recent years he has stung many of the residents he represents by voting against certifying results in the 2020 presidential election and also against honoring police officers who fought off an assault on the capitol on January 6, 2021.”

Harris said he voted against honoring the officers because the bill incorrectly used the word insurrection.

The first district, which includes the Eastern Shore, has been overwhelmingly Republican and Harris has easily won re-election. The Redistricting Advisory Commission is proposing a map that makes the district more competitive by adding portions of Anne Arundel County.

That Congressional map gets an “F” rating for partisan fairness, according to an analysis by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. What could give Harris pause about running in another district is that while that map would make the first a tossup, the other seven congressional districts would strongly favor Democrats.

The current congressional map, passed by Democrats 10 years ago, is considered one of the most gerrymandered in the country. Emblematic of that is a spot at the intersection of York and Cockeysville Roads in Baltimore County where three congressional districts meet, the first, the second and the seventh.

For example, the seventh district meanders through portions of Howard County and Baltimore City, then takes a narrow, northerly path through western Baltimore County, before dropping south to Cockeysville.

Republicans are concerned the map being proposed for the next 10 years will be just as gerrymandered.

The two GOP legislators on the seven-member Redistricting Advisory Commission voted against the proposed map. Before that vote, House Minority Leader Jason Buckel took aim at the sprawling third congressional district.

Buckel asked, “Is there any particular rationale for trying to connect six counties together from almost the D.C. line to the Pennsylvania line in that fashion?

Senate President Bill Ferguson, who also serves on the commission, defended having congressional districts cut through multiple counties because he said it allows for regional economic planning.

“The perspective of multiple jurisdictions thinking regionally is going to be what would be a helpful feature for representation in the U.S. Congress given the nature of our state,” Ferguson said.

The proposed map divvies up Baltimore City and Baltimore County between three congressional seats. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to 3rd District Democratic Congressman John Sarbanes.

“People have different views of that,” Sarbanes said. “Some will say, well, if a jurisdiction’s got two or three voices within the delegation, then when it comes time to push important priorities that’s helpful.”

But Baltimore County Republican Councilman David Marks disagrees,

“It dilutes our political power,” Marks said. “I mean we’re one of the largest jurisdictions in the state and we’re cut in every direction. And for constituents, they don’t know who to turn to. It’s extremely confusing.”

Former Maryland Secretary of State John Willis, who teaches public and international affairs at the University of Baltimore, said leading up to next week’s special session, Maryland’s congressmen are letting state legislators know what they want.

Willis said, “They know the potential consequences of every line shift.”

Those line shifts will be controlled by Democrats, who have veto-proof majorities in both the Maryland House and the Senate.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2