Plans Would Split County Into 2 Districts

July 28, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

The county would be divided between two congressional districts under separate plans presented to a state redistricting committee last week.

A proposal endorsed by five of Maryland's eight congressmen apparently would put much of Anne Arundel County in the same district as the Eastern Shore. The rest of the county would become part of a suburban Washington district.

The plan could force Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, to run against another incumbent, Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st.

That didn't sit well with McMillen, who represents all of Anne Arundel and parts of Prince George's and Howard counties, so McMillen proposed his own plan, which would combine all of Anne Arundel County with parts of Howard County and Baltimore.

The state Republican party proposed placing Anne Arundel County north of Dorsey Road in a district that includes a portion of Baltimore and is represented by 3rd District Democratic Representative Benjamin L. Cardin. The rest of thecounty would be combined with a large part of Prince George's County.

The competing plans were unveiled at a hearing Thursday night held by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee. The committee is scheduled to adopt a plan Aug. 27 and conduct another hearing Sept. 3. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet in special session to approve a plan Sept. 25.

Incumbents are trying to protect their districts from being carved up to create a new black-majority district in Prince George's County. Population changes recorded in the 1990 census all but require the state to set aside a black-majority Prince George's district, several speakers said at the hearing.

The Republican proposal and McMillen's plan would create a black-majority district, but the congressional majority plan stopped short of endorsing such a district.

The congressional plan and McMillen's plan would create a "safe" seat for Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. Hoyer is considered the most powerful member of the delegation.

But securing a seat for Hoyer, whose district encompasses what would become the black district, would mean placing two incumbents in the same district. McMillen has said he was approached by Hoyer and Cardin and asked to runagainst Gilchrest.

McMillen said a plan jeopardizing Democrats would be "disastrous . . . The Democratic delegation in the House has tremendous influence in a Democratic Congress."

McMillen proposed placing two Republicans -- Gilchrest and Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd -- in the same district. However, Bentley's close ties to Gov. William Donald Schaefer and her threats to run against Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski have made Democratic officials loath totamper with her district.

Gilchrest asked that his district remain as is. Bentley endorsed the five-member congressional plan. "Needless to say, I do not agree with Mr. McMillen, and I will not go any further than that," Bentley said.

McMillen's plan also didn't sit well with Cardin, who would lose a broad base of support in southern Baltimore.

McMillen may have some powerful allies in the fight to retain his district, among them Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, both of whom serve on the five-member redistricting committee. Miller is said to oppose a McMillen-Gilchrest matchup, and Mitchell's top priority is retaining the Eastern Shore seat.

Also, the Maryland Democratic Party will soon inject itself into the debate. Chairman Nathan Landow wrote a letter to the committee saying the party will propose a plan next week that will create a black-majority district and "the five Democratic incumbents will each be in his or her own district."

In the meantime, county Democrats have rallied behind McMillen's plan. About a dozen showed support for his proposal Thursday night.

"The McMillen plan is fairest of all, because everyone has to give a little," said Susie Jablinske of Annapolis, a member of the county Democratic State Central Committee.

Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, sent a letter to state Democrats last week supportingMcMillen. He pledged to forge alliances to save McMillen's seat.

"I definitely think they're trying to get Tom to take the fall, and unfairly so," Wagner said Friday. "I think Ben Cardin is being greedy.He hasn't been there any longer than Tom McMillen. We want Anne Arundel County to remain intact."

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