Sawyer: Harford Democrats Hire Attorney To Force Republicans To Allow Them On Redistricting Commission

From Wendy Sawyer, Chair of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee:

To my Democratic friends:

I am sending this email in case some of you did not get it from another source.

Last night at the County Council meeting I spoke to the Council about their intention to not appoint any Democrats to the important redistricting commission. I am attaching my comments which should explain where we are at this point. The Redistricting Commission is the entity that reviews the district lines for voting for county council. If the Republicans have their way, there will be such gerrymandering it will be even more difficult to get Democrats elected. We must stop them now!

The Central Committee has obtained top notch legal counsel through the State Party and Gus Brown, Esquire in Bel Air to fight the Republicans and try to force them to appoint Democrats. We do not expect they will do it voluntarily, but they have to do it next Tuesday night at their meeting. We want everyone to know what they are up to and the legal shenanigans they are playing to keep us out. Imagine the lines if Republicans are the only ones with any input!!

If, after next week’s meeting, they do not appoint any Democrats, our attorneys are going to file suit requesting an injunction to stop the commission from doing any business until Democrats are included in the process. We intend to make sure everyone in this County sees the arrogance of the Republicans. And we need your help.

Please, please, please, write letters to the Aegis complaining about this. But most importantly, please try to attend the Council meeting next week, Tuesday, February 15, 2011. It starts at 7:30 pm and is held in the Roberty Bulding, across the street from the municipal garage, behind the sheriff’s office.

Thanks for your help, and if you want to talk more about this, just call me.

Wendy Sawyer

Here are Sawyer’s comments to the Harford County Council:

Comments to Harford County Council
February 7, 2011

My name is Wendy Sawyer, and I am the Chair of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. I appreciate the time you have allowed me to speak to you this evening.

I would like to urge the County Council to reconsider your position that you intend to create a redistricting commission comprised of all Republicans to draw the boundaries for council districts in the County, and to block any participation in the process by the Democratic Party.

I have received two letters from Barbara O’Connor, Council Administrator, advising that the County Council has taken the position that no Democratic Party members will be permitted to participate in the redistricting process.

You have based your decision on a portion of the County Charter which states that the Council shall choose two names from each Central Committee which “polled more than 15% of the total votes cast for county council”. We disagree with that position and urge you to reconsider and take into account the following:

1. The County Charter was formed at a time when all Council members were elected at large. Since that time, Harford County voters chose to have in-district elections for council members. Only the President now runs at large. This drastically changed the mathematical premise under which the Charter was written. It was the responsibility of the County Council to review its Charter after in-district elections began and amended it to reflect how elections are currently held.

In the past, there was a Charter Review Board. If such a board is an ongoing one, they have utterly failed to ensure that our County Charter remains in line with constitutional guidelines. If there is no Charter Review Board in place at the present time, this situation clearly demonstrates the reason there should be one.

2. The clear intent of that Charter provision is to prevent “fringe parties” from participating in this important political process. Your stated position that the Democratic Party in Harford County will not be considered by you for this commission violates that intent, and is wrong as a matter of law.

As of the 2010 election, there were 41.6% active registered Democrats, and 42.3% Republicans. That is a difference of less than 1%. Under no reasonable definition does 41.6% of the registered voters constitute a fringe party.

Any redistricting plan this Council puts in place that is based on or influenced by a recommendation of a committee from which all members of the Democratic Party have been systematically excluded will clearly be vulnerable to a charge of unconstitutional gerrymandering.

Prince George’s County has a very different scenario. Republicans only make up 9% of the total active registered voters there. In fact, the undeclared registered voters outnumber them with 13%. In Prince George’s County, the Republican Party is a fringe party.

I would respectfully urge this Council to select two names from the list of five names that was provided to you and appoint them to the redistricting commission. In the event the Council fails to do this, we intend to seek all legal remedies to prevent the commission from doing any business until Democratic members are permitted to participate.

The Democratic Central Committee has an obligation not only to the 41.6% of Democratic citizens, but to all citizens in this county, Democrat, Republican, or unaffiliated, who expect our government to be fair in such an important political process.

When one political party makes all the decisions, it loses its credibility.

Thank you for your time this evening.


  1. says

    Keep up the good fight, Wendy!

    I recall during 2009-2010 that Republicans were consistently talking about the disadvantages of one-party rule in Washington (White House, House of Representatives, US Senate). I would like to think that they would do the same thing even with the shoe on the other foot, but I guess I am being too optimistic. :-)

  2. Phil Dirt says

    “When one political party makes all the decisions, it loses its credibility.”

    HAHAHAHAHA! A Democrat in the state of Maryland had the nerve to make a statement like that! Now that’s what I call humor (take notes, Tom Myers).

    Did Ms. Sawyer have a problem with the state Congressional redistricting that put:
    a.) Hunt Valley in the same district as Ocean City and inculdes a jump across the bay to Severna Park,
    b.) Darlington in a district that reaches the West Virginia border, and
    c.) Havre de Grace in a district that includes Randallstown and Fort Meade but happens to include hardly anything between them?

    This was done by Democrats simply to preserve Democrat districts, and I guess Ms. Sawyer figures, without any proof, that if her party goes to such ridiculous extremes, naturally the Repubicans would do the same.

    For an visual example of Democrat-led redistricting, go to and have a good laugh.

    But I do understand her concern. When you have had total control for so many years in so many areas, it’s only natural to not understand what the other side feels once your grip on the power starts to slip away.

  3. Dave says

    Why all of the sudden are the Democrats in Harford County so concerned about not being represented? They didn’t seem too concerned when they didn’t run any candidates in 4 of the 7 council races last time.

    It’s funny that they seem more focused on drawing the lines than on running candidates in the elections based on those lines.

    This is a problem of their own making.

  4. Miles Kress says

    I have to agree with Ms. Sawyer. “When one political party makes all the decisions, it loses credability.” The Democrat Party in Maryland lost “credability” decades ago. We have had one party rule for over 40 years. Look back to the redistricting by Mr. Glendenning, no gerrymandering there. What will Mr. O’Malley ram through to make sure “New Americans” will have some districts, no gerymandering comming from MOM.

    Also the Democrat Party had no one run for Council President or County Executive.

    Redistricting is an important issue, the Republicans came out, ran(unopposed) and won. Is the Democrat Party, in the words of the Maryland Senate President, “dead and burried face down for 20 years”? He was talking about the Republican Party after Bob lost 4 years ago.

  5. wendy says

    Dave has missed the point just like the Republicans and the Aegis. The real legal issue is that the Council failed to amend the Charter when we went from at large elections to in district elections of the council. Republicans fought against it and when they lost they just ignored their responsibility to make sure they are functioning within the Constitution. Dave wants to simplify the issue raher than try to understand it. It’s not gping to work. Not this time.

      • Beatrice says

        Grow up. This isn’t about who was in the council when. It’s about basic fairness and constitutionality. The Republicans did their dog and pony show in DC reading the parts of the Constitution they liked. So why can’t they follow it now?
        The charter should have been changed and it wasnt. It is now unconstituional as applied. What don’t you get about that?

        • Dave says

          There’s a difference between unfair and unconstitutional. Which part of the constitution does the 15% rule violate, and how could it be consititutional before in-district elections and unconstitutional after? These “threshold” laws are in place all over the country.

          It was the Democrats who fought for the in-district election referendum in 2000. If they were so concerned about the 15% rule back then, they would have put it on the ballot as well. The council can’t change that part of the charter by themselves.

          And Wendy — “Republicans at The Aegis”? Seriously? You must not know the editors at the Aegis.

          • Beatrice says

            Come on, Dave, did you know about the 15% rule then? Did anyone? The point is the COUNCIL FAILED TO DO ITS JOB. We will not publish our legal strategies or arguments on the internet. Get your own lawyer to explain it to you.

  6. K says

    Bummer democrats, bummer! Thankfully the republicans are in charge now. We can rest comfortably at night knowing our fiscal business is being handled honestly. The poor, old, tired donkeys can’t handle the rules and regulations THEY implemented. Suck it up and try again the next election cycle.

  7. Pavel314 says

    Typical Democrats; ignore the law when it suits you. Just because the charter, the legal basis for our county government, states the rules of the situation, feel free to ignore it if you think it’s unfair.

    I’m sure if the situation were reversed, the Democrats would waive the 15% rule and invite some Republicans on the redistricting commission.

  8. Kim McCarthy says

    As of February 3rd of the 150,570 registered voters in Harford County, 41% are Democrats and 42% are Republicans. The redistricting commission merely makes recommendations to the County Council. It is only fair that the committee is representative of the registered voters.

  9. Francis says

    I sometimes wonder. What if we split the county. Dems would have one side of I-95. Repubs would have the other. Independents can choose either side. But the Dems have to promise not to cross the boundary. And vice versa. Independents can move about freely. I wonder which side would fare better in the long run? Well…..a man can dream. Sigh

    • says

      They tried something like that before. What resulted was something called the Civil War. More thn 600,000 people lost their lives as a result. Keep thinking of those brilliant ideas, Francis.

      • Francis says

        My point was, if isolated and left to their own devices, which political philosphy would be more sucessful. Thats all. Nothing sinister was meant by it. Sorry it was taken that way.

      • Francis says

        Not at all what I believe or meant by my post. Sorry I gave that impression. I just think it would be an interesting experiment. Settle once and for all, which political phiolsophy is more conducive to a successful society.

    • Kim McCarthy says

      Francis, if that was an attempt at a joke, it fails miserably. We are one, wonderful country, state and county. Calls to divide us help no one. Tom is 100% correct about drawing any lines or even talking about them. We should be proud of the fact that 41% of us are Dems and 42% are Republicans and yet we all get along. Redistricting committees are important as populations change. They are necessary. They just need to be appointed fairly.

      • Phil Dirt says

        Yes, Wendy, this should be as fair as the Maryland congressional redistricting was. I remember how much you protested the pathetic gerrymandering that took place when the Democrats drew the ridiculous districts throughout our state. I thank you for always looking out for the citizens of Harford County (and Maryland in general), regardless of political party.

      • Francis says

        Kim, I do not wish for a divided society. I was just musing. But I do find it interesting that the party out of power always wants fairness and equity. As soon as they are back in power it goes out the window. And yes, Repubs do this too.

        • Kim McCarthy says

          Francis, I read you response. I do believe you. Sorry about the mix-up. These blogs can get heated, that is why we need to try to be civil. Thanks for doing that…. Kim

      • Pavel314 says

        What about the 17% who are independents? Who represents them? Why do we trust the whole process to the usual political hacks whose only real interest is getting their hands on the public treasury?

        • John Paff says

          The Maryland Independent Party disbanded, those that did not switch to a party are now listed as unaffiliated…

          • Pavel314 says

            Not Independent Party, people who are registered voters but independent, not a member of any party. It seems that they are the ones with the real complaint. Only those who are registered with one of the organized crime families, Democrats or Republicans, have their interests served. Republicans send our money to their well-connected developer friends and Democrats give it to the welfare bums.

  10. K says

    As ususal, the democrats respond with meaningless, personal character attacks rather than pure, unadulterated, quantifiable data. Based on the most recent elections, voter registration numbers, etc., etc., the people have gotten the true vibe of dems and they don’t like it! Plus, more and more folks every day are learning the truth about the Democrat Party and they are heading for the republican hills.

    • Kim McCarthy says

      K – the fact is in registration, both parties are statistically even. No arguments. And, no, I don’t want to “head for the hills” – any hills – not Democratic or Republican. That suggests giving up and not wanting to work together for a better tomorrow for EVERYONE. Our differences make us stronger and our common sense of pride and respect for each other, our county, state and country make us such a great country.

  11. wendy says

    K wants quantifiable data and yet can’t seem to grasp the fact that the charter provision was constitutional when written but is now unconstitutional when applied to the new way council members are elected. This is not rocket science – no one hss been reviewing the charter even though we are supposed to have a charter review board. These are legal questions not political ones. I would think everyone would want the council to be minding their own store. Their decisions affect us all.

  12. Otto Schmidlap says

    Hey Wendy:
    You can always move to Montgomery, Prince Georges or Baltimore City where Democrats hold sway. The other 80% of the state’s land is run by Republicans. Can you dig it?

    • Kim McCarthy says

      Otto, that is really a silly comment, as are the maps drawn after recent elections. Election districts aren’t drawn around “square footage.” They are about populations – people. That is what this new redistricting map will be about. That is why the people being affected need to be represented.

  13. Patrick says

    Wow, Wendy you guys finally wake up from your election season slumber and realiize you blow it. I’m sure Martin is going to treat the twenty counties as equal as the three counties and the city that he favors when he draws the lines. I bet not Wendy! You call foul now after your own genius plan for 2010 explodes in your face. Now you can feel what a Republican experiences every year in this State. Welcome to looking at it from the outside.

  14. Miles Kress says

    The charge of unconstitutional keeps being thrown out. Please tell us which section of the Constitution is being violated and how the Federal Constitution impacts the county charter. We will need approval from the State to make the change, so go talk to Mr. O’Malley.

  15. Bill says

    I agree with Kim, this group only makes recommendations to the Council. History shows the Council has always made changes and adopted their own plan and there is 2 Dems on Council to argue the minority point of view. The group should at least include one dem for fairness.

  16. Old Dem says

    As a JFK Democrat, I have found myself voting Republican and Independent more and more as the current democrat party has no room for anyone interested in fiscal or personal responsibility. I hope reasonable Democrats in Harford will vote out this incompetent cast of clowns on the democrat central committee next election. Here is their record:
    County Executive: no candidate recruited or nominated- FAILURE
    CLERK OF COURT: no candidate- FAILURE
    SENATE 35: no candidate- FAILURE
    COUNCIL DIST D: no candidate- FAILURE
    SENATE 34: ART HELTON AGAIN? He lives in Darlington! – FAILURE!!
    DELEGATE 35A: No help to John Jones- FAILURE!
    HOUSE AND SENATE 7: no help to candidates- FAILURE
    COUNCIL E : was there a candidate here? FAILURE

    Now Ms. Sawyer has hired a lawyer to cover the tails of the inept, intolerant, and incompetent committee now that it is plain they didn’t do their jobs during the election season.

    DEMOCRATS WAKE UP! Let’s bring some common sense back to our party that has been hijacked by these ultra left wing idealogues and make this a party of the common man once again.

    • K says

      Old Dem, you nailed it! Your analysis is accurate and right on target. I’m not sure when the Democrat Party was ever in touch with the common man, based on my historical knowledge.

      • Kim McCarthy says

        K – “historical knowledge,” not “in touch with the common man” – you have got to be kidding? How far back to do you want to go? My late grandfather who would not have had a job had it not been for FDR and the TVA; the many people who were treated as second class citizens before the Civil Rights Act? Do you actually have any “historical knowledge?”

        • B says

          1964 Civil Rights act
          By party
          The original House version:[12]

          Democratic Party: 152-96 (61%-39%)
          Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)
          Cloture in the Senate:[13]

          Democratic Party: 44-23 (66%–34%)
          Republican Party: 27-6 (82%–18%)
          The Senate version:[12]

          Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%–31%)
          Republican Party: 27-6 (82%–18%)
          The Senate version, voted on by the House:[12]

          Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%–37%)
          Republican Party: 136-35 (80%–20%)

          Historical knowledge- Dems love to claim that the big bad Republicans were and are against the civil rights act, however if you look at the votes, there were more dems that voted against the bill then Repubs. Total and percentage.

          Screw up and blame Republicans.
          Call Republicans racist and hope it sticks.

          FDR’s own treasury secretary said the New Deal was a failure by the way. Good your grandfather benefitted from a policy that didn’t help the economy or the country. Sound familiar?

          If we are giving the Dems the credit for the Civil Rights act, they should get the credit for another great vote in 64, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

  17. Joseph Camp says

    Ms. Sawyer stated: “If the Republicans have their way, there will be such gerrymandering it will be even more difficult to get Democrats elected”.

    I guess she is afraid Republicans might have learned a lesson or two from the way Democrats in the state gerrymandered the Congressional lines in 2002 so that the state went from a 4 Dem/4 Republican split, to a 6-2 Democratic advantage. This redistricting effort resulted in 3 of the top 10 most gerrymandered districts in the United States being in Maryland.

    And the effort is already underway by the party in power to redistrict the 1st Congressional District, moving Harford out of the 1st District, over to the 6th, and then having the 1st District jump the Bay Bridge & pick up 100,000 Democratic voters in Prince Georges County. That way the Democrat Party is assured a 7-1 advantage in congress after the next election.

    Ms. Sawyer, if you want a lesson on what gerrymandering looks like here is a map of the Maryland 3rd Congressional District, the monstrosity that your party created.

  18. K says

    Dems voted against Civil Rights Act, Abraham Lincoln was a republican, FDR purposefully extended the Great Depression. Currently, the top five wealthiest members of congress are, you guessed it democrats. I have to hand it to the Democrat Party, they have successfully spread their propaganda as to their love and connection to the average citizen.

    • says

      Actually, “K,” the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act were conservative Democrats in the South, also known as “Dixiecrats.” They were replaced by Republicans in their well-known Nixon-era “Southern Strategy” in an attempt to appeal to white, conservative voters, a strategy which to some extent still exists to this day. It is interesting to note that today, Abraham Lincoln would be run out of the Republican Party, just as he was run out of the Whig Party 160 years ago.

      As to FDR, he actually instituted programs that help American seniors and low-income families to this day. Republicans and conservatives, as usual, said No without offering any solutions or ideas of their own.

      Also, “Old Dem” seems to have forgotten that we kept Council members in Districts A (Dion Guthrie) and F (Mary Ann Lisanti), kept a Sheriff (Jesse Bane), held onto one seat in the House of Delegates District 34A (Mary-Dulany James) and helped to elect (albeit a “Non-Partisan” candidate) Cassandra Beverley to the Harford County Board of Education. Given the anti-Democratic tide in 2010, I would say that while there was definitely room for improvement, the Democrats in Harford County did well.

      • Phil Dirt says

        Yes, the Democrats were the ones for civil rights, except for those who weren’t. The Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act, but were actually against civil rights. Got it?

        What a sneaky yet brilliant strategy those Republicans employed! Is that the same way the Democrats are for “the common man”?

      • Pavel314 says

        Basic math lesson time. If two of the top five are Republicans, three of the top five are Democrats.

        5 – 2 = 3

        3 > 2

        Hence more wealthy Democrats than Republicans. Unless one of the Independent or Socialist members are in the top five but they vote with the Democrats. Still, 5 out of over 500 is a small sample.

      • Phil Dirt says

        That’s true. Actually, 70% of the top ten richest members of Congress are members of the party of the common, working man. The other three are Republicans.

  19. Cincinnatus says

    Tom, et al,

    Please stop with the references to the Democratic Party. There is nothing democratic about it. Witness the 111th Congress & the MD House & Senate. Case closed.


  20. Pat Haggerty says

    The Democratic Party DID NOT meet the 15% threshold needed to get on the commission.
    *Did they field a candidate for County Executive? NO.
    *Did they field candidates in Council Districts B,D, or E, or Council President? NO.

    That is the Democratic Central Committee’s problem for there inability to recruit candidates. These are the same Democrats who supported this idiot of a Governor, with his “New Americans”, who by the time he is done re-drawing the congressional maps, will have completely screwed Republicans over.

  21. Dottie Dupree says

    I have seen comments on civil rights, more than I wish to see. I have seen comments on the two parties, once again more than I wish to see. I will not hide that I am an American conservative, that happens to be a white American married to a black one. We have three children, all of which are very socially diverse. The funniest thing is that when our kids are asked what they identify themselves as, they look at people like they have two heads and respond with, “AMERICAN, not black, white, straight, or gay!. So, I ask, why must we all pick at one another? Let’s all simply come together, realize what means the most to our country, and simply get that done. God bless the U.S.A. and ALL of her people! Dottie Dupree ( Wife of Frank A. Dupree….Harford County Republican Central Committee).

  22. K says

    Dottie, well said. You have lived the story, know the characters, and have risen above the nonsense. I proudly voted for your husband based SOLELY on his politcal views and what his intentions are for the RCC. I’ve met your husband and he certainly is a gentleman. Love is color blind, we all should be so lucky…..

  23. Just the Facts Ma'am! says

    Wendy Sawyer, What 5 names did the Democratic Central Committee provide to the County Council? Many of us would like to know. Please provide, and thanks in advance for the information :)

  24. belairfed says

    Jimmy Carter. George Walker Bush. one party doesn’t have a corner on brains. I would think Mr. Bonniface would know capable people who could make good decisions regardless of party. capable = who cares. everyone talks party. It’s a big us vs this game, screw the best interest of anybody.