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Senate chief says members got 'vicious hate mail' after Hogan post on veto override

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called out Gov. Larry Hogan Friday over a social media post that criticized the senators who overrode one of his vetoes and urged citizens to contact them after the vote was already taken.

Miller said the post helped generate abusive calls and emails to lawmakers, and could damage the Republican governor's relationship with the Democratic Senate majority.

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"We have been subjected to some of the most vicious hate mail you can even imagine," Miller said. He said one of the senators who voted to override Hogan's veto of a bill restoring felons' voting rights more quickly received a phone from someone saying he hoped the senator's wife and daughter would be raped.

A Hogan spokesman defended the governor's actions, saying he was just letting people know how lawmakers voted.

The conflict comes just over a week after Hogan delivered a State of the State Address in which he called for a bipartisan approach to governance. While Democrats initially praised the tone of the speech, many have since questioned the governor's sincerity. Meanwhile, Hogan aides have pointed to Democratic actions they believe have shown disrespect for the governor.

Miller's tirade came in response to a posting on Hogan's Change Maryland Facebook page Tuesday --  in response to the Senate's vote hours earlier -- that listed the names of the 29 lawmakers who voted to override and urged the Republican governor's supporters to contact them.

"These are the partisan senators who voted to ignore a majority of Marylanders and allow current felons to vote," the post said before listing the 29 Democrats. The legislation, also overridden in the House, will allow people who have served term in prison to resume voting upon release rather than waiting for parole or probation to expire.

Miller said there are 47 senators of both parties who all "get along together." He said that after senators disagree on a vote, "we forget about it, we move on." The Senate president objected to the post coming after the vote had already been taken, saying it served no purpose other than to inflame tensions.

"We have almost three full years left in this term, and the governor has a lot of big initiatives to pass. And we have to move the state forward, and we've got to continue the dialog," Miller said. "That was a very unhealthy thing to do, it was a very ungentlemanly-like thing to do, and it was morally objectionable."

Miller went on to read from the Senate podium excerpts of inflammatory emails his office had received. "You must need the votes of murderers, rapists and pedophiles to stay in office," one of the messages read.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer called the notion that the governor's posting had anything to do with the abusive messages "beyond ridiculous" and suggested that Miller would regret the implication.

"It's not the first time he's crossed the line, and I'm sure we can all be pretty positive it won't be the last time," Mayer said.

Mayer rejected the criticisms from Miller and other Senate Democrats.

"If they're upset, if they don't like the fact that their constituents are upset with the votes they've taken, maybe they should vote a different way," Mayer said. "If Maryland senators are questioning whether it's a good thing that their constituents know how they're voting, they need to take a good, hard look at what their role is here in Annapolis."

Mayer's comments did little to calm tensions.

Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat, called the spokesman's comments "outrageous." In a Facebook posting, Reznik said Mayer "needs to be looking for another job."

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Miller said he met with the governor Tuesday to privately raise concerns about the tone of messages put out by the governor's social media accounts, a meeting a Hogan aide confirmed.  Miller said the governor was only aware of some of the messages over which Miller raised objections.

"The day after we have the conversation, this stuff happens," Miller told reporters. "Hopefully this is a lesson learned, and hopefully he heard the message loud and clear. And if he didn't, and it happens again, there's going to be consequences."

Noting that Hogan hasn't held public office before, Miller blamed the governor's staff.

"He's brought in these haters, these right-wing people . . . for staff people," Miller said. "First of all, you should know better than to hire people like that. But second, if you do, you need to train them ...  that this is not bean-bag, but it's people supposed to be acting like gentlemen and ladies toward one another to move the state forward in a proper fashion.

Republican Sen. Michael Hough said the friction between the Senate leadership and the governor was "above his pay grade" and shrugged his shoulders at the intensity of the Democrats' response.

"People don't like getting mean emails, I guess," he said.

Some Democratic senators -- particularly those representing largely African-American districts -- objected to Hogan's characterization of their votes as partisan and contrary to the views of most Marylanders. They said that in voting for the override they were representing the overwhelming majority in their districts.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Democrat who represents Baltimore, said his constituents "absolutely" support his vote for the override because they want to see people who have been convicted become productive citizens again. McFadden said he, too, had received derogatory messages in response to the Facebook post.

"For you to be vilified for that, I think it's below the belt," he said. But McFadden said the conflict would not keep him from bipartisan cooperation with Hogan.

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