What started as a call to action by Gov. Larry Hogan following a vote to override a veto has resulted in legislators receiving a slew of angry calls and emails including a message to one senator that finished with a wish for his daughter and wife to be raped.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. called on Hogan to end the practice in a more than 10-minute commentary from the rostrum during a meeting of the Senate Friday morning.
“We’ve been subjected to some of the most vicious hate mail you can possibly imagine,” Miller said. “One senator out there got a message saying they hope his wife gets raped. That kind of stuff, that kind of nonsense.”
Staffers said the call, made by an unidentified man, was made to Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel County. In that call, the unidentified man said he hoped Astle’s wife and daughter were raped and murdered. Astle does not have a daughter.
Miller went on to read some of the other emails including one that began “Dear sir, you’re an idiot.”
“We have a very perceptive individual,” Miller said commenting on the opening line.
“What kind of an idiot are you? If you want to give the right to vote to the person who raped your neighbor just so you can remain in office, you do not deserve to represent the people of Charles, Calvert or Prince George’s Counties. You should resign in disgrace and leave the state for parts unknown,” Miller said quoting from the email to his office.
“I have to wonder where the heck your head is but I think I know,” Miller quoted from another email. “You liberal Democrats are the scourge of a functioning society.”
Another read “you must need the votes of murderers, rapists and pedophiles to stay in office.”
Many of the emails Miller read, while angry, stuck to typical disgruntled voter messages criticizing the votes taken and lawmakers for being out of step with the electorate or for making the state less desirable to live in. Miller on two occasions stopped to point out spelling or grammatical errors in the electronic missives.
Miller called on Hogan to dial down the rhetoric following votes saying “ten pieces of hate mail before the vote” wasn’t out of bounds.
“We need to continue to avoid the pin pricks that precede the cannon shots,” Miller said. “This is a pin prick. If you want a cannon shot, it’s going to come later on in the session and we don’t need that.”
Hogan Wednesday reposted an image from the Change Maryland Facebook page that listed the names of 29 senators, all Democrats, who voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would make felons still on parole and probation eligible to vote.
The post reads: “These are the partisan senators who voted to ignore a majority of Marylanders and allow current felons to vote. Contact them here.”
Change Maryland is the campaign arm of the governor.
Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan, said he would not comment on the actions of the campaign but acknowledged that the governor had also shared the post on his official account.
“After listening to the talk on the Senate floor this morning, it sounds like a number of senators are very mad that people outside of Annapolis now know what’s happening inside of Annapolis,” Mayer said. “If these good senators don’t want their constituents to be upset with them, they should stop voting in favor of bills that they (voters) absolutely despise.”
“If the argument they’re making is that we need less transparency and less accountability in governing and legislating, then they need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and decision about who are they really serving here in Annapolis,” Mayer said.
Mayer said Hogan does not approve of threatening messages.
“Of course the governor condemns words of violence,” Mayer said. “But this isn’t a conversation about that. It’s a conversation about accountability and transparency.”
Mayer said Miller wants to play by rules in which nothing is ever discussed once a vote or decision is made, while Miller himself is frequently critical of Hogan.
“If those are the rules, why does everyone keep talking about the Red Line? Why is (Miller) talking about GCEI? Why did he have a press conference with (House Speaker) Busch this summer about GCEI? Under those rules, we’re not going to talk about anything the governor does. The governor believes in transparency and accountability and that’s never going to change.”
A number of Republican senators Friday were quick to rebuke the messages.
“Even our side gets the hate mail from groups when they think we vote the wrong way on an issue and they call us idiots,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford Counties and Senate Minority Leader. “It’s the individuals that sent the email that aren’t being an adult. I don’t blame the governor for that hate mail coming in, it’s just, he spoke, he said what he felt. It’s the individuals that are the ones who are wrong in their tone and how they conducted themselves.”
Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Western Maryland, said the messages “disgusted” him and called on Maryland residents to temper their comments.
“I’m going to challenge the people in my constituency because I’ve gotten some of these same things,” Serafini said. “I’m very sorry that you got these and I’m really disgusted that that’s happening to your family. We have to call our people in our state and our communities. We must be better. We must hear all people’s points. It’s ok to disagree but it’s not ok to be disagreeable. I’m going to say as a person of faith we need to look at the heart of the people and we have to challenge them to think of others first. Think of how you would like to have that and hopefully we can turn that conversation around.”
Miller, during his comments, said Hogan’s social media messages drive the emails.
“It’s the angry tone that spurs them up. Both sides have segments that are off far to the left and far to the right.”
Miller compared it to ranchers in Oregon who were part of a 41-day standoff with the federal government.
“It’s just mean-spirited vicious people,” Miller said, adding that he has had to have his personal mail monitored in the last year.
“My wife gets Christmas cards, she thinks they’re Christmas cards but it’s pornography — hate pornography,” Miller said. “It’s directed to your house. It’s never happened before and it comes from hate social media. You get people angry and you anger them and anger them and you keep ginning it up.”