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Hogan says he’d make congressional districts more contiguous

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in his office at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md. Hogan is running for re-election against Democratic candidate Ben Jealous. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in his office at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md. Hogan is running for re-election against Democratic candidate Ben Jealous. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

ANNAPOLIS — While Gov. Larry Hogan says a second term would look a lot like his first, he also says Maryland voters can expect to see some significant changes — notably in how the state’s congressional map is drawn.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hogan said Thursday that if he’s re-elected and the courts don’t act before the next round of redistricting takes place, he will push again to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and have an independent commission draw Maryland’s eight congressional districts.

Hogan, a Republican, has proposed nonpartisan redistricting for all four years he’s been in office, but Democrats who control the legislature say they support reform at the federal level or taking a regional approach.

They might change their minds, Hogan said, if he wins and has strong influence over the next map.

“We’re going to draw fair districts, because it’s what people want,” Hogan said, adding he supports reforms in how the legislative districts in state government are drawn as well.

Maryland’s congressional map has been criticized for having some of the nation’s most gerrymandered districts.

In the last round of redistricting in 2011, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and the General Assembly added more Democrats to 6th Congressional District, which had been held by a Republican for 20 years. Democrats picked up the seat the following year, giving Democrats a 7-1 advantage in a state where they outnumber Republicans 2-1. Republican voters are challenging the map in federal court. A three-judge panel met earlier this month and discussed the possibility of a nonpartisan panel.

If the process remains unchanged, Hogan said he would use his influence to make the districts more reflective of the people represented in them.

“We’re going to try to draw contiguous districts that make sense, and have the voters actually pick their representatives, instead of the representatives picking their voters,” Hogan said.

During the interview, Hogan also talked about:

EDUCATION

A state commission is looking at raising education funding formulas, which were set in 2002. Hogan said he wants increased accountability to be part of the equation.

“There’s no question they’re going to be calling for additional funding recommendations, which we’ll certainly take a look at, but we want to make sure that a big part of the discussion is about school accountability, and we’re not going to be spending more money without more accountability,” he said.

GUN VIOLENCE

Hogan signed gun-control laws that went into effect earlier this month, including a red flag measure that lets courts temporarily restrict firearms access for people found to be a risk to themselves or others. He also signed school safety legislation and a measure to impose tougher sentences on people who commit crimes with guns. He supports universal background checks.

“We’ve got the toughest laws, but we’ll take a look at doing more to stop the violence and I’m hoping that our tougher sentences against people committing crimes with a gun is going to make a big difference,” he said.

AMAZON HQ2

Hogan backed an incentive package with tax breaks and infrastructure improvements worth billions of dollars to try to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Montgomery County, which is on the company’s shortlist of possible locations. Hogan attended a dinner about a month ago with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, but said Bezos “would not let anything out of the bag” about a decision.

CANCER FREE

Hogan said he remains cancer free, after being diagnosed in 2015 with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I’m doing really, really well,” he said.

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

Hogan expressed wariness about legalizing recreational marijuana anytime soon. He cited the rocky rollout of medical marijuana in the state.

“Let’s be cautious. Let’s see how we do with medical marijuana, and ultimately this is an issue that I think the voters of Maryland should decide for themselves, but I don’t see it happening in the next couple of years,” he said.

SPORTS BETTING

Hogan said believes Maryland will legalize sports betting in the next couple of years. If sports betting is going to happen, he said it should be regulated and the state should receive tax revenues. If that’s the case, he said, “I think I would certainly be supportive of the idea of adding that to our casinos.”