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Candidates scramble during redistricting uncertainty

About 100 guests piled into the Green Turtle in La Plata on Nov. 17 for a meet-and-greet event ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

The event, held by Del. Matt Morgan (R- St. Mary’s), was unique as Morgan was campaigning to court residents for a district that doesn’t yet exist.

“It has changed up the campaign because we would be really focusing in on our district and you don’t know where that district is,” Morgan said before Wednesday’s event.

Morgan’s current district, 29A, could be changed completely due to the upcoming special session of the Maryland General Assembly, which will decide how voting districts for state and federal legislation will look over the next decade following the 2020 census.

When the Maryland General Assembly meets for the session starting Dec. 6, legislatures will vote on multiple alternative voting district maps.

This year is unique, as dueling map proposals from the legislature and Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) Citizens Redistricting Commission have created strong feelings and a diverse group of options.

The commission, made up of three Democrats, three Republicans and three independents, released its proposed election maps for state and federal voting districts on Nov. 5.

The state level maps, if approved, would further split Charles County into three districts in the state Senate, and five in the House of Delegates.

One of those proposed districts, 41A, would join southern Charles County with northern St. Mary’s County.

The fusion of a traditionally more conservative portion of Charles with northern St. Mary’s, which also leans Republican, could create an opportunity for a Republican to win in Charles, which according to Morgan hasn’t happened in 20 years.

Morgan believes the district could create a “winnable” race for Republicans that could create “diversity of thought” in the region.

However, the governor’s maps are only one option in the redistricting puzzle.

The legislature’s Redistricting Advisory Commission, a seven-member commission comprised of four Democrats, two Republicans, and an independent chairman, is creating its own maps.

The commission released four conceptual maps for federal voting districts on Nov. 9, four days after the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission released theirs. However, state level voting district maps have not yet been released.

According to Del. Edith Patterson (D-Charles), state level maps are expected to be released once the entire assembly convenes during December’s special session.

Patterson also stated that one of her priorities was ensuring Charles voters have appropriate representation in the state legislature.

“Having individuals from St. Mary’s County rule on Charles County affairs would not be fair,” Patterson said.

Redistricting maps are coming together in a compressed timeline due to ramifications from delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delays in the 2020 census resulted in a later than usual collection process, and Maryland population data wasn’t received until August this year.

The delays in receiving data and amended maps means the districts’ delegates and senators have filed for could drastically change depending on which maps get approved.

Potential changes are critical, as candidates are required to file for next June’s primary by Feb. 22, 2022.

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews

Jobs, economy in view during gubernatorial forum

Democratic hopefuls for the 2022 Maryland gubernatorial race had their first opportunity to square off on issues related to jobs and the economy at a candidate forum Monday evening.

Seven Democrats participated in the “Burgers and Brews” forum at Red Tails Ocean Grille in Waldorf, moderated by Tracee Wilkins, Prince George’s County bureau chief for NBC News 4.

“I would like to thank Yvette Lewis and the Democratic Party for choosing Charles County to kick off these series of forums as we move toward electing the next governor of the state of Maryland,” Charles County Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins II (D) said in his opening remarks.

Candidates were limited to one minute to answer each question that was either prepared beforehand or presented by the public.

One of the top economic issues was how to spend the state’s $2.5 billion budget surplus.

“I would treat it as one-time money because it’s not a revenue stream,” Rushern Baker, former Prince George’s County executive, said.

Baker said he would increase the incentive fund to $200 million to increase job-making opportunities in the county.

Candidates were also asked how they would deal with climbing inflation caused by the pandemic.

Jon Baron, former congressional staffer and nonprofit executive from Montgomery County, said he would provide for more job training focusing on fast-growing industries.

“These programs would allow wages to rise well above inflation,” Baron said.

John King, who was secretary of education under former President Barack Obama, said he would invest in public transit and do more with the housing trust fund to increase the supply of affordable housing.

“We have to take an approach that deals with the day-to-day struggles that people have in their lives,” King said.

Candidates were also asked about how they would deal with vaccine and mask mandates as the number of Marylanders with a shot has leveled off.

“We follow the science. We want to keep people healthy” Doug Gansler, former Maryland attorney general, said.

Ashwani Jain, former Montgomery County council candidate, agreed, saying that he believed the state reopened schools and businesses too early.

Wes Moore, an Army veteran and former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, said the state must show greater leadership in combatting the pandemic.

“Where we had local leaders going at it at their own, we need to have state leadership that will work with our community leaders to show people that we have a vaccine that is safe,” Moore said.

Baron was more forceful, calling vaccines our “one-way ticket” out of the pandemic.

Candidates were also asked if governors could be pro-business and pro-workers rights at the same time.

“Income inequality in the 20th century was at its lowest when union density was at its highest,” Tom Perez, former secretary of labor under Obama, said.

Perez said that shared prosperity could be achievable if businesses and workers came together.

Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) and business owner Mike Rosenbaum, both potential candidates on the Democratic ticket, did not attend Monday’s event.

Currently, no Democrats have formally filed for the June 2022 primary, according to the Maryland Sate Board of Elections website.

Two Republicans, Del. Dan Cox (R-Carroll, Frederick) and Joe Werner, an attorney from Baltimore County, filed in September for the race. Kyle Sefcik, a gym owner from Montgomery County, registered as an independent candidate on Aug. 27.

The next Democratic gubernatorial forum will be Jan. 5 in Frederick. A specific location has yet to be determined.

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews

'Racing Grayson' shines in first full season

Earlier this year, Hughesville’s Grayson Shelton, 6, climbed onto a motocross bike for the first time for a full season after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of all but a handful of events during the 2020 season.

In his first full-time season racing a dirt park, parents Jessica, 34, and Eric, 35, didn’t have any expectation of results for their son; they just wanted to see him have fun.

“A big thing is not about where you finish, how you finish or anything like that. If you keep it fun it stays something he wants to do,” Eric said.

No one expected that when Grayson lined up at the starting gate for his first events in the Middle Atlantic Motocross Association in the Special Limited and Limited Jr. categories in April at South Fork Motocross Park in Virginia it would be the start of an exemplary season.

The Special Limited and Limited Jr. classes both use 50cc motocross bikes, with certain restrictions to slow down the special limited machines to make the bikes more controllable for young riders.

The Limited Jr. category uses up-tuned bikes to produce a little more power and speed, but still keep the racing safe enough for the youngest riders.

No matter the speed, though, Grayson came out on top.

Grayson won six times across both classes, finishing no worse than fourth in the 50cc Limited and no worse than seventh in the 50cc Special Limited category to sweep the 4-6 year old category in 2021.

Grayson also ran in the open categories for 4-8 year olds, finishing fifth in Open A, and 11th in Open B.

Championship glory was a complete shock to his parents, who had a more modest outlook on how he’d fair.

“I think we said maybe on the KTM (Special Limited bike) he’ll get top five and on the Cobra (Limited Jr. bike) maybe a top-10 in the big boy class,” Jessica said.

Riding started at an extremely young age for Grayson, who began on a strider bike, a pedal-less bicycle, just before his second birthday.

By 2½, he was riding and racing bicycle motocross, or BMX, before graduating to motorized bikes just two years later.

Jessica said the love for bikes came from the boy’s father, who is an avid motocross and BMX rider.

Grayson seems content on keeping the family tradition alive. The young racer spends a majority of his time practicing on a small motocross track built in their backyard, working on starts, which were “horrible,” according to his parents during his first year.

To perfect his launch off the start line, an important part of motocross races, Grayson and his father spent time training by using a stick.

Eric would hold up the stick in front of Grayson, and when it drops, the young rider takes off.

The daily practice paid off for the boy, as he took home one his biggest wins of the year on Oct. 24 when he won the 50cc Special Limited category for 4-8 year olds at Budds Creek in Mechanicsville.

In 2022, the Sheltons have their eyes set on a chance at competing in KTM Junior Supercross, a youth racing league exhibition contested during Monster Energy Supercross events.

But the biggest prize is a shot at advancing to Loretta Lynn Motocross track in Tennessee for a chance at a National Amateur Championship next August, something that Eric says will take skill and a little luck.

The Sheltons are looking for sponsorship for their 2022 season. Interested parties are encouraged to send an email to klinej11@gmail.com.

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews

One-year-old Gabriel Greenwell of Leonardtown picks the perfect apple during the “Amazing Apples Cider-Making” demonstration at the Fifth District Park in Mechanicsville on Saturday.

The perfect pick

A region of firsts: Voting rights, minority representation part of national heritage area study

A land of firsts was the basis of a feasibility study into establishing Southern Maryland as a national heritage site.

A draft version of the Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Feasibility Study was released on Nov. 17 by Destination Southern Maryland at the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Environmental Center at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

“We are a land of firsts” Lucille Walker, executive director of Destination Southern Maryland, said in her opening remarks at last week’s unveiling of the study.

The 139-page report is part of a process to establish Southern Maryland as a national heritage area as recognized by the National Park Service.

According to the National Park Service website, national heritage areas are places where historic, cultural and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.

The report also outlined a myriad of stories important to the tapestry of the early nation, telling the story of Mathias de Sousa, a fur trader and mariner who became the first person of African descent to be elected to what is now the Maryland General Assembly in 1641.

The report also highlighted Margaret Brent, who arrived from England in 1638 to escape persecution for her belief in Catholicism. According to the study, Brent was the first woman to practice law in the colonies and was the first woman in the country to petition for the right to vote.

Brent was memorialized by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Procession with the establishment of the “Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award” in 1991.

Freedom of religion, now an inalienable right protected by the First Amendment, was first codified in the area in 1649 with passage of “The Act Concerning Religion.”

While the law at the time was focused on Christianity, the law is remembered for having a provision protecting religious individuals from an infringement of their rights.

The study also recounted the customs and practices of the Piscataway people, who settled in the area centuries before the first European colonists.

The stories are outlined both in a historic overview and expanded upon in five different themes discussing everything from the state’s maritime culture to the spirit of progress in opening up more opportunities to women and minorities.

Carolyn Bracket, a heritage tourism and preservation planning specialist, said the themes were a way of organizing the myriad of stories that make up Maryland’s early history.

“They’re not really an end of themselves. They’re a tool to get you to the next step of, ‘Where do we want to share these stories? How do we tell them and how do we document that history?’” Bracket said.

The feasibility study is apart of a multilevel process to acknowledge the area, which was declared a state heritage area in 2004.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) have all sponsored bills (S.B. 825 and H.R. 2024) to acknowledge Southern Maryland as a national heritage area.

Approval of the feasibility study by the National Parks Service and Congress are required to designate a national heritage area.

Public comment on the study, available to view on the website www.destinationsouthernmaryland.com/, is open until Dec. 17, and all comments can be emailed to Lucille Walker at lwalker@tccsmd.org.

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews

Elkton quarterback Jayden Triplett rolls out looking for an open receiver in last Friday’s 2A/1A state semifinal game at Lackey, won by the host Chargers 58-28.

A bottlenose dolphin swims through the upper Chesapeake Bay this summer.