Monday, January 2, 2012

Marylander of the Year: State Senator Allan Kittleman // Surprise: He's a Republican (I'm Not)

[ See All of the "2011 Marylander of the Year" Nominations ] 


In the first blog post of 2012, Maryland Juice is naming State Senator Allan Kittleman of Howard County our 2011 Marylander of the Year. The choice might not seem obvious, since I am a Democrat and Mr. Kittleman is a Republican. In fact, if he runs for higher office, I still hope a Democrat beats him. But here's why he is Marylander of the Year....

In the era of the Tea Party, the GOP Senator from Maryland's Ninth Legislative District was the only member of his party to support marriage equality when it passed the State Senate last year. But Mr. Kittleman is not Marylander of the Year just because he and I share the same position on a civil liberties issue -- Senator Allan Kittleman is Marylander of the Year, because his quiet protest against his party's angry position was a rare moment of civility in a nasty year of politics.

While Mr. Kittleman decided to vote in favor of marriage equality, most Republican officials were competing to see who could throw LGBT families the furthest under the bus. Last year, the The Washington Post's John Wagner reported that Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney was putting the party's muscle behind stopping marriage equality:
The Maryland Republican Party has stepped up its lobbying efforts on the biggest social issue of the legislative session -- same-sex marriage -- as the Senate prepares to begin debate next week.

In an "action alert" emailed Saturday to party members, state GOP Chairman Alex X. Mooney lists the names and numbers of nine senators he suggests are key to whether Maryland legalizes marriages between gay couples....

The final vote on the bill is expected to be very close....
Some Democrats have pointed out that Senator Kittleman may be politically rewarded for this "moderate stance" in a future run for Howard County Executive or other higher office. Even still, this vote did not come without consequence. Earlier this year, The Baltimore Sun's Annie Linskey reported that Mr. Kittleman resigned as Minority leader and noted the following:
Senate GOP leader Allan Kittleman told his caucus this morning that he will step aside as minority leader, heeding concerns from other Republican senators who voiced discomfort over his decision to introduce a civil unions bill.

"I'm a social moderate and I wanted to stand up for what I believe in," Kittleman, from Howard County, said in a brief interview this morning before going to the Senate floor. “It is more important for me to stay true to my beliefs than it is for me to be the Minority Leader,” he said.

Speaking on the Senate floor he it was "no secret" that he is left of his caucus on social issues. He said the caucus would "feel more comfortable" with a different leader.
Last March, WBAL noted one other consequence of Mr. Kittleman's marriage equality position:
...the National Organization of Marriage is pledging $1 million to fight Maryland Republicans who support gay marriage and support Democrats who oppose the measure. The group plans to create NOM PAC Maryland and picked its first target: Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard County, the only Republican to vote in favor of the same-sex marriage in the Senate. 
The money -- which is a large amount in a state where General Assembly races end up costing a couple hundred thousand dollars at most -- hints at the looming national battle, which is set descend on Maryland. Local gay marriage opponents have said they have begun coordinating with national groups to start a petition drive necessary to put the issue on the ballot in 2012 if the gay marriage bill is signed into law.
Indeed, for those following state politics in 2011, it is clear that the marriage equality issue brought out the best and the worst in some of our officials. For example, Maryland Juice received the following anonymous Marylander of the Year nomination from a politico who followed state issues all year:
I nominate gay members of the House of Delegates: Regardless of where you stand on same-sex marriage, it is impossible to ignore the passion that went into the marriage debate during 2011 legislative session. On the final day of jockeying for support, gay members of the House stood up and one by one gave personal, impassioned pleas to their colleagues. The typically boisterous chamber fell silent as lawmakers seemed to actually listen as delegates like Luke Clippinger, Heather Mizeur and Anne Kaiser explained that they were “not less than.”  It’s not their identities or viewpoints, but their courage, that earns these folks the distinction.
My first campaign in Maryland was for State Senator Jamie Raskin. When I mentioned to him that I was thinking of picking his colleague, Sen. Kittleman as Marylander of the Year, he noted: "Allan Kittleman shows that, while the concept may just be empty rhetoric for a lot of Republicans today, the party of Lincoln lives for a few."

This issue is set to return in the 2012 legislative session and may be on the ballot in November. No matter how it plays out, there will be numerous fascinating stories and consequences to explore throughout the year. Stay plugged in to Maryland Juice in 2012!

P.S. I have one final installment left in the Marylander of the Year series coming soon.

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