Del. Wade Kach's decision to vote in favor of same-sex marriage legislation in the House of Delegates has drawn the ire of some Republicans who say it threatens the nine-term delegate's political future.
"If his was the one vote the governor needed, then he will be held accountable by a lot of people," said Ellen Sauerbrey, a friend and political ally of Kach.
Sauerbrey said she spoke to Kach on Wednesday night but was unclear about the reasons why the delegate changed his mind that day after opposing the bill in a committee vote 24 hours earlier.
"I look at this and say it makes no sense unless there is something else we don't know," Sauerbrey said.
"I am totally bewildered by this," Sauerbrey said. "His decision made no sense. All he could say was his heart was touched by some of the stories."
Patch reported late Wednesday that Kach told Republican colleagues he switched his vote in favor of the bill.
Thursday morning, Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a statement attributed to Kach on the governor's Twitter account.
"Constituents sent me to Annapolis to represent them," read the statement attributed to Kach by O'Malley. "They didn't send me to sit in judgment of the lives of others."
The Baltimore Sun also reported Thursday morning that Kach, a nine-term delegate, had confirmed his change of position.
Kach managed to slip unseen past a gaggle of reporters who waited for him outside the House chamber Thursday morning.
Outside his office, opponents of the same-sex marriage bill, including ministers, waited several minutes for Kach to arrive.
His office door was closed and locked. Calls to his office phone were forwarded directly to voicemail. The delegate did not answer his cell phone or his hotel room or return multiple messages from a Patch reporter seeking comment.
An aide representing Kach asked a reporter seeking an interview before committee hearings to come back later in the afternoon.
"I really am very surprised that Wade is going to change his vote," said Del. Joseph Boteler, a Baltimore County Republican and colleague of Kach.
Boteler noted that Kach spoke against the bill during committee debate Tuesday evening.
Boteler said he spoke to Kach on the floor of the House of Delegates on Thursday morning. He said Kach gave no reason for the switch.
"I think he feels that the issue is not a big deal," Boteler said. "It's really hard to read him on this issue."
Boteler said he warned Kach that the vote could damage his political future.
Some other county Republicans privately speculated that a vote for the same-sex marriage bill might signal that Kach will not run in 2014.
Kach represents District 5B which includes an area of northern Baltimore County that stretches from Cockeysville to the Pennsylvania line. The single-member district is considered to be one of the more conservative areas of the county.
New redistricting maps that will go into effect in 2014 place Kach in a newly-drawn, two-member district within the 42nd District. The new two-member district is considered favorable to Republicans.
Kach could find himself pitted against four Republicans including Boteler, a frequent ally, and Dels. Susan Aumann and Bill Frank, both of whom currently represent the 42nd District.
"I told him I don't think this district will be very happy about his vote for the gay marriage legislation," Boteler said.
Sauerbrey said Kach could find himself in a tough primary fight in two years.
Boteler held out hope Kach was not committed to voting for the bill. Sauerbrey said she continued to email Kach about the issue but was less hopeful.
"Once you've made a decision like this and stated it publicly, after changing your position once, it's difficult to change your vote again," Sauerbrey said.