Confusion surrounds election rules for Maryland District 37B

By Greg Bassett
Posted 5/6/22

Maryland law establishes 47 election districts across the state, each one represented by a senator and three delegates.

In District 38, for example – which land-wise encompasses most of the …

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Confusion surrounds election rules for Maryland District 37B

Posted

Maryland law establishes 47 election districts across the state, each one represented by a senator and three delegates.

In District 38, for example – which land-wise encompasses most of the Lower Shore’s three counties – Mary Beth Carozza of Ocean City is the incumbent senator, and the delegates are Carl Anderton of Wicomico, Wayne Hartman of Worcester and Charles Otto of Somerset.

All neat and tidy.

But what does that mean for District 37, which encompasses four counties – Wicomico, Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot?

The state’s election arrangement could possibly leave one county with no resident lawmaker representing that county’s residents in Annapolis.

That’s currently the case for Caroline County – it’s the only county in Maryland without residential representation in the State House.

District 37’s incumbent senator is Addie Eckhardt of Dorchester; its delegates are Sheree Sample-Hughes and Chris Adams of Wicomico and Johnny Mautz of Talbot.

A former Wicomico County Council member, Sample-Hughes represents District 37A, a minority-majority district that covers portions of Wicomico, Dorchester and Caroline counties.

Adams and Mautz each represent District 37B; Adams lives in Wicomico, Mautz lives in Talbot.

For this year’s election, Mautz has decided to give up his seat and challenge Eckardt for the Senate, leaving an open seat in 37B.

With the primary elections just weeks away, some confusion has surrounded the race. A crowded Republican primary has four people competing for two nominations.

In addition to the incumbent Adams, Nicole Acle of Salisbury, Tom Hutchinson of Woolford and the Rev. Ron James of Galestown are the four GOP filers.

Acle is well-known to Salisbury-area voters for her service as a member of the Wicomico County Council. She is giving up that seat for a State House run.

The confusion involves Article 2-201 of the state election code. A provision states:

“... where Delegates are to be elected by the voters of a multi-member subdistrict which contains more than 2 counties or parts of more than 2 counties, a county or a part of a county may not have more than 1 Delegate residing in that subdistrict.”

Many voters might not be aware that Acle and Adams are essentially battling head-to-head for the GOP nomination, despite the presence of two other Republicans on the July ballot.

The one-Delegate-per-county rule has long been controversial and – following reapportionment fights each decade – has popped up in other districts.

Only a small portion of Wicomico has historically been a part of District 37B. With Dorchester’s population shrinking, and Wicomico’s growing, however, Wicomico now makes up a significant part of 37B.

When the General Assembly convened in Annapolis in January, Republican Delegate Kevin B. Hornberger of Cecil County introduced emergency legislation that would have awarded the two 37B seats to the top two vote getters, regardless of where they lived within the district. House Bill 1337 was never even heard by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Adams is the first Wicomico resident ever elected to represent 37B, as the previous population tilt favored residents of Talbot, Dorchester or Caroline.

Even if Acle and Adams were to receive more primary votes than the other two candidates, only the top vote-getter between the two can advance.

Acle, a health industry professional, was appointed to the County Council in 2019 and elected to complete a term representing District 2 in 2020.

Adams, a Salisbury business owner, is seeking a third term, having first been elected in 2014. 

Hutchinson is known for his redevelopment work with Cambridge Main Street. James has been mayor of Galestown since 2009.

The only Democrat in the race is Susan E. Delean-Botki of Oxford, a registered nurse who works for the University of Maryland Medical, who advances automatically to the Nov. 8 general election.