James King lost his seat in the Maryland legislature last fall, but expects to spend considerable time working with lawmakers in Annapolis during the rest of 2011.
The Gambrills business owner and former delegate for District 33A was recently appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to a commission overseeing Congressional and legislative redistricting for the state. He will be the lone Republican on a panel that includes former colleagues Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael Busch.
“I have a very good relationship with those guys and I look forward to working with them, but I also recognize my work is going to be cut out for me,” he said. “I will have a lot of work to do.”
Other commission members include Richard Stewart, the president and CEO of Montgomery Mechanical Services, Inc., and Jeanne Hitchcock, Maryland’s secretary of appointments.
King and his fellow commission members have yet to meet, but they expect to begin holding town hall meetings in communities across the state this month. They will begin in western Maryland before making their way east. Anne Arundel County, King said, will be a target for potential change.
He said that while no proposals have been presented, he is concerned about rumors that portions of Crofton could be moved into a district that is largely in Prince George’s County. He also said Democrats could try to re-draw lines of Districts 30, 31 and 33 so that Republican incumbents might be forced to run against one another.
“I don’t believe there is a net pickup for Democrats there, but it would definitely create some issues with the Republican Party,” he said.
King said he’s resigned himself to the fact that Republicans will not get majority representation in Maryland, but said he will work to ensure that those in his party are represented fairly.
“I look at my role in this as being the voice of reason and the voice for the minority party,” he said. “There are a significant number of Republicans in Anne Arundel County and they deserve representation in Annapolis. What’s fair is to have enough districts to adequately represent the divide between Democrats and Republicans.”
King served as the Delegate for District 33A from 2007 to 2011, before giving up his seat to run for state Senate last year. He lost in the Republican primary to Ed Reilly, but said he does not regret the decision to run for Senate, believing it was time to “move on or move out.”
King got married in December, and the lack of an elected office has helped him focus on his family and his restaurants, Kaufmann’s Tavern in Gambrills and Rockfish in Annapolis. He also plans to open three Greene Turtle franchises over the next 18 months, including one at the new Village South at Waugh Chapel development.
Meanwhile, King has kept his foot in the political circles by taking on a part-time role as a small business advisor to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and was appointed last week to a commission examining where to put slots parlors in the state.
King’s advocacy on behalf of small businesses has earned him some recent accolades. The West Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce named him Small Business Advocate of the Year during its annual meeting in June. King has promoted a “buy local” initiative in Gambrills and is a co-organizer of the Gambrills Fall Festival on Sept. 13.
King said that while he is an unabashed conservative, he believes he has been invited to remain in the political arena because of his desire to get along with everyone, regardless of party.
“I think my name comes up for this stuff, because while they recognize that I have the conviction to stand up for what I believe in, they know the process will at least be pleasant,” he said. “I’m hoping the relationships I’ve built up over the years will carry on and allow me the ability to have some input and make some differences.”