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Harford Councilman Andre Johnson announces run for state delegate as political boundaries prepare for redrawing

Harford County Councilman Andre Johnson announced a run for state delegate Friday as election season marches on and political boundaries are set to be redrawn in the county for the 2022 elections.

Johnson, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for delegate of District 34A Friday, saying he believed Harford County was “at a crossroads” and needed to safeguard educational opportunity and affordable transportation for its residents.

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“We must all work to build our communities and to unite our future and need representation in Annapolis that understands the intricacies, challenges and beauty of District 34A,” he said.

The district stretches from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace and is currently represented by Dels. Mary Ann Lisanti and Steven Johnson — the only two Democrats of Harford’s delegation in the General Assembly. As of Monday, nobody has formally submitted the paperwork to the Maryland State Board of Elections to run for the district’s representative, according to the board.

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The only candidate to file to run for representative in any of Harford’s legislative districts is Teresa Reilly, a Republican seeking her third term as delegate in District 35B, which covers a chunk of Harford and Cecil counties. Reilly, a former Deputy Minority Whip, is the current chair of the Harford County Delegation.

Walter “Butch” Tilley has filed to run for state senate in District 34 in the absence of Sen. Robert “Bob” Cassilly, a Republican who is running for Harford County Executive. Tilley, a Republican, is the owner of York Insurance Services, the president of the Harford County Sheriff’s Foundation, and the current chairman of the county’s Liquor Control Board.

County Executive Barry Glassman’s chief advisor, Billy Boniface, is running for county executive as well. Glassman himself is campaigning for state comptroller and has endorsed Boniface for county executive. Both are Republicans.

Change coming to county council?

Johnson’s declaration for state delegate leaves open his seat on the Harford County Council. Longtime councilman Chad Shrodes, a Republican who has represented District D since 2006, recently declared that he would also not be seeking another term on the council.

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Shrodes is making a bid for Clerk of the Circuit Court, while the current clerk James Reilly, a Republican, is running for Shrodes’ seat on the council. Michelle Karczeski is also running for clerk of the circuit court. The Republican business owner is seeking to become the first woman elected to the post in Harford County.

Thus far, Councilman Robert Wagner (District E) and Council President Patrick Vincenti, both Republicans are the only incumbent councilmembers to file for re-election, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

Wagner faces a challenge in his district from Jessica Boyle-Tsottles, a Bel Air realtor. Their addresses registered on the state board of elections’ website, both on Prospect Mill Road, are less than a half-mile apart.

Seeking a seat in District B, currently represented by Republican Joseph Woods, are Aaron Penman, a Harford County Sheriff’s deputy, and Jean Ann Wilson. Woods has yet to file for re-election.

No candidates have filed yet in councilmanic districts A, C or F, currently represented by Johnson, Tony Giangiordano and Curtis Beulah, respectively. The deadline to file for the primary is Feb. 22. The gubernatorial primary in Maryland will be held next June.

Council districts to be redrawn

The people representing the districts on the Harford County Council might not be the only changes coming.

The county’s charter states that councilmanic districts must be re-established every 10 years. Because the last redrawing was in 2012, the boundaries are being redrawn for the 2022 election by a council-appointed commission.

The commission tasks two Republicans, two Democrats and one person of the council’s choosing to prepare a plan and report on the redistricting. The commission will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 30, to hear testimony from the county’s municipalities and open the floor to public comment. It will be hosted in the Harford County Council chambers and streamed on the council’s website.

According to a memo sent to the commission, it must have a plan to present the council by Oct. 1. The deadline troubled some of the commission members, according to meeting minutes — compounded by the delay in U.S. Census data reaching the commission. According to the minutes, it will be mid-to-late August before the commission receives the data in legacy format.

Also up for re-examination are the state’s congressional and legislative districts. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, created a commission to redraw Maryland’s notoriously gerrymandered political districts in January. Redistricting was scheduled to occur upon completion of the 2020 U.S. Census.

The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission recently heard the public’s view on redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional districts during a virtual meeting with Harford, Cecil and Carroll residents.

The governor has the power to propose General Assembly and congressional district maps, but state lawmakers can substitute their own General Assembly map. If those lawmakers want to propose a congressional map, they would have to pass their own bill and potentially marshal three-fifths support to override a veto.

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