Comptroller Peter Franchot has become the latest prominent Democrat to reject the congressional redistricting map drawn by Gov. Martin O'Malley and the General Assembly, urging Marylanders to vote it down at the polls Nov. 6.
During a radio appearance Tuesday on WBAL, Franchot said the map has "embarrassed our state" and called for future redistricting plans to be developed by a bipartisan commission instead of legislators and the governor.
The congressional map, which the courts have upheld even though some judges criticized it as an obvious case of gerrymandering, was petitioned to referendum by activists, mostly Republicans.
The map was drawn by leading Democrats to give their party an advantage in seven of the state's eight congressional districts. They currently hold six seats. Much of the criticism is directed at the shape of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes' 3rd District, which sprawls from Baltimore County, around the city and out to include portions of Annapolis and Montgomery County. One judge wrote that the district is "reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl."
By opposing the map, Franchot joins several other prominent Democrats who have broken with party leaders over the plan. They include state Sen. C. Anthony Muse of Prince George's County and Montgomery County Council members Phil Andrews and Valerie Ervin. Some Democrats in the U.S. House delegation have been conspicuously unwilling to defend it.
Franchot, who has increasingly steered a course independent of O'Malley as he looks toward a possible run for governor in 2014, charged that Democratic leaders were "driven by partisan motives when coming up with the proposed map and not by the public interest."
The comptroller pointed to a recent study finding that the redistricting gives Maryland the least compact congressional districts in the country.
"I am a Democrat, and I like to win elections as much of the next guy — but not by fixing the outcome and not by compromising our state's reputation by making a mockery of the electoral process," Franchot said.
Franchot's opposition was welcomed by a leading opponent of the map.
"The announcement by Comptroller Franchot carries weight in demonstrating the nonpartisan work of the petition and the referendum efforts to overturn a map that has been called the most gerrymandered in the entire country," said Tony Campbell, president of Marylanders for Coherent & Fair Representation.
Franchot also differs with O'Malley and legislative leaders on another referendum issue, opposing the measure to expand gambling in Maryland.