Veto override drawing vitriol from constituents in Maryland

AP News
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Posted: Feb 12, 2016 5:02 PM

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's Senate president called for civility Friday after Democrats received what he called "the most vicious hate mail you can possibly imagine" in the aftermath of overriding the Republican governor's veto. One caller expressed the hope a senator's wife would be raped and killed.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller asked Gov. Larry Hogan to stop his supporters from singling out senators in messages on social media. Hogan's spokesman said it was "ridiculous" and "beyond outrageous" to imply the governor was responsible for encouraging people to make such calls and comments.

"If they don't want their constituents to be upset with them, then they shouldn't vote in favor of items that their constituents absolutely despise," Hogan's spokesman Doug Mayer said.

The uproar happened after the Democratic-led legislature overrode the veto of a bill this week allowing felons to vote when they are on parole and probation. The override succeeded by the thinnest of margins for a three-fifths majority in both the House and Senate.

"This is not Washington, D.C.," the Senate president said. "You know, Republicans and Democrats here are friends. We are friends. The governor is my friend. I've known him since he was a young man, and we want to continue to be friends, and friends do not act like this."

Democrat Sen. John Astle said the hate mail and calls his office received are the nastiest in his 34 years as a Maryland lawmaker. One caller told a staff member he hoped Astle's wife and daughter would be raped and murdered, he said. Astle does not have a daughter.

"He didn't even know who I am," Astle said. "I have never experienced this kind of vitriol over an issue."

None of the calls have risen to the level to involve police, said Miller's deputy chief of staff, Jake Weissmann.

The Senate president closed his remarks by calling for calm.

"This is not a Democratic speech. It's a speech on behalf of the Senate of Maryland saying: 'Governor, you're my friend. I sat with you yesterday. We talked. We had a good conversation, but we need to continue to avoid the pinpricks that precede the cannon shots."

Hogan, who is in his second year as governor with strong support in polls, won an upset victory in 2014 in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. He campaigned largely on fiscal matters and has battled with Democrats over spending and tax relief since taking office last year. He announced in June he had cancer — B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma — and after months of chemotherapy he announced in November he was in complete remission.