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Gilchrest: Refashion my old Md. congressional district to leave Andy Harris out | READER COMMENTARY

Much has changed since I served Maryland’s 1st District as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Perhaps no change is more fundamental than the rise of an anti-democratic faction of elected officials who shun American values for their own political gain. We are experiencing an existential threat in our country that requires all of our voices to quell. It is time for Marylanders to defend our democracy and to do so vigorously.

On Jan. 6, 147 Republican members of Congress voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election — and many of them still refuse to condemn the violent insurrection that occurred that afternoon. Ideally, all 147 of them would be forced to run in highly competitive districts where voters could decide whether their actions that day were acceptable. Here in Maryland, the state legislature has influence over one of those districts and it should not pass up the opportunity to allow voters to hold U.S. Rep. Andy Harris accountable for his actions (”The insurrection was an insurrection: Why is that so difficult for Andy Harris to understand?” June 17).

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In the coming weeks, lawmakers in Annapolis are poised to reconsider the congressional maps, as they do every 10 years, and it’s my opinion that they must take into account the sort of anti-democratic extremism that the current map has empowered. Andy Harris refused to certify the results of a free and fair election, helped stoke the violence that led to the insurrection in January and voted against giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol Police officers who saved his life.

As a believer in democracy and the will of the people, I support a redrawn 1st District that allows voters to render a verdict on Congressman Harris that isn’t predetermined by packing nearly a quarter of Maryland’s Republican voters into just one of our eight districts.

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Defending democracy is the ultimate good government goal — and to protect it means doing everything we can to ensure that people who would vote to overturn the results of a fair 2024 election are not in office. We narrowly avoided a catastrophe in 2020 and we can’t risk it next time. The people of Maryland won’t stand for it.

By pairing the Eastern Shore with Annapolis and portions of Anne Arundel County, regions that are inextricably linked by their proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, the legislature can easily create a balanced, competitive district, and the voters can truly decide whether a dangerous radical like Andy Harris belongs in Congress. A district that crosses the Bay Bridge is not a new idea — when I served the 1st District, it included parts of Anne Arundel County and our capital city.

This is not about party politics. I served as a Republican, and I would welcome the election of any new representative for the district, from either party, who does not seek to undermine our precious democracy. But the current map silences the voices of the reasonable people of the Eastern Shore, and empowers a dangerous faction that will destroy our democratic system of government if given the chance.

Let’s go back to a moderate, reasonable district like the one I served, a place where officeholders are encouraged to consider a variety of viewpoints to influence their decisions and where voters can hold them accountable if they threaten the very foundation of our democracy. I urge the Maryland General Assembly to do its part to make that a reality. Democracy itself depends upon it.

Wayne Gilchrest, Betterton

The writer represented Maryland’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2008.

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