HYATTSVILLE -- Two themes swept through the hearing held by the governor's redistricting committee last night: Create a minority district and a separate one for favorite son Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th.
About 80 residents and political officials turned out last night for the 11th of 13 hearings held by the five-member commission charged with advising Gov. William Donald Schaefer on the redrawing of legislative and congressional lines that is done every 10 years.
Mr. Schaefer, seated in the front row at the hearing room of the Hyattsville Municipal Building, got the advice firsthand from voters.
State Sen. Albert R. Wynn, D-Prince George's, said there is "considerable sentiment" among blacks for a minority district.
"We think it's something that can be done," he said, echoing other speakers who said the sharp increase in black population during the past decade all but requires the creation of a minority district underthe federal Voting Rights Act.
Charles C. Diggs Jr., a former U.S. representative from Michigan who now lives in Hillcrest Heights, pushed for a minority district that would be confined to Prince George's County or take in a portion of Montgomery County.
He brushed aside comments from Montgomery County residents who told the redistricting committee last week that they would oppose their county's being chopped up.
Mr. Diggs also called on the committee to use the section of Prince George's County left out of a minority district to create a new district for Mr. Hoyer, whose district includes the northern two-thirds of the county. That portion could be combined with Southern Maryland, he said.
Mr. Diggs termed Mr. Hoyer the "most influential" member of the state delegation because of his position in the House leadership as Democratic Caucus chairman and his position on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
College Park Mayor Ann Owens agreed. "Retaining Steny Hoyer is of prime importance," she said. "Maryland would be a loser without Steny."
"He's done quite well for us," said Deborah McFarland of Upper Marlboro, referring to Mr. Hoyer and ticking off his accomplishments, ranging from money for the reconstruction of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the creation of a new federal court for Southern Maryland.
But there were several dissenters last night.
Kevin Igoe, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said the state GOP endorses a minority district but is against the creation of a separate district for Mr. Hoyer.
"We are not here to protect high-ranking incumbents, even if that incumbent's name is the very capable Steny Hoyer," he said.
And Dorothy Hodges, a Prince George's County resident since 1953, said she opposes the creation of a minority district, a stance that she conceded is "unpopular."
She said she hopes districts will be created for population reasons and not to create "little islands."
"I have a fear of the Balkanization of this country," Ms. Hodges said.