BALTIMORE – A federal judge denied a request Thursday by perennial congressional candidate John Kimble to postpone the March 2 primary election until the 4th District lines can be redrawn.
The state does not need the “disruption of me wading into a primary election that is 10 days away,” U.S. District Court Judge Andre Davis said before denying Kimble’s motion.
Kimble, now mounting his fifth bid to unseat Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, had asked to block the election until a three-judge panel could be convened to look at what the Republican call the “racial gerrymandering” of the 4th District.
Kimble, who is white, first filed suit in September 2002, claiming he could not win an election in the majority-black district. He said Thursday that the district is “totally bizarre.”
“If you made it 50 percent white and 50 percent black, I’d win (the election) on the issues,” Kimble said. “This is racial apartheid against me.”
Davis initially dismissed Kimble’s case in November 2002, saying his original statement to the court about his claim of racial gerrymandering was unclear.
But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in December 2003 and sent the case back to Davis. It said that while Kimble’s statement of his claim of racial gerrymandering “was not a model of clarity,” it was “adequate.”
Still, the circuit court added a footnote to its opinion that said the judges “express no opinion about the merits of Kimble’s claim.”
Assistant Attorney General Steven Sullivan argued Thursday that Davis should dismiss the case now based solely on its merits, not on the technicality concerning the statement of Kimble’s claim. He called the appellate court’s footnote an “invitation for this court to address the merits.”
“The 4th Circuit is not shy to express their opinion on merits,” Sullivan said. “Here, they’ve gone out of their way to express ‘no opinion about the merits.'”
“I don’t think this is a case that fits with any gerrymandering case,” he added, saying the claim was “insubstantial” because Kimble could not prove the district was drawn to exclude white people.
But Davis refused to immediately dismiss Kimble’s, case even though he voiced concern about its merits.
“You alleged . . . that black people only vote for black people,” Davis said to Kimble. “Do really think that is why you haven’t won an election?”
Davis said the number of voters from a certain race or gender is “constitutionally irrelevant” unless the district is bizarrely shaped.
Davis ordered Kimble to file a memorandum explaining his case for racial gerrymandering in clearer terms. He also suggested that Kimble, a non-lawyer who is representing himself, get an attorney to handle the case, but Kimble said he planned to file the briefs himself.
Sullivan and the court will tentatively review Kimble’s memo by next Thursday, when Davis will decide whether the case should go to a three-judge panel. Such a panel, consisting of Davis, another district judge and a 4th Circuit judge, would then review the case and either dismiss it or order the lines to be redrawn.
Kimble said after Thursday’s hearing that Davis’ refusal to postpone the election was “horrible.” But, noting that both Davis and Wynn are black, Kimble said he did not plan an appeal.
“It would be a waste of my time,” said Kimble, who said he planned to get to work on the briefs for next week’s hearing.
-30- CNS 02-19-04