Redistricting Plan Barely Muffles County's Voice

August 22, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

The county's undiluted voice in national politics would largely be preserved under a congressional redistricting plan released yesterday by a gubernatorial advisory committee.

The five-member panel, charged with reapportioning congressional seats based on the 1990 census,proposed leaving Anne Arundel largely intact as a district.

Three South County precincts, including Deale, would be spun off into a district dominated by northern Prince George's County and Southern Maryland. Ellicott City in Howard County, as well as Dundalk andEssex in southeastern Baltimore County, would join the district containing Anne Arundel. The county would make up more than two-thirds ofthat district.

The county's state lawmakers praised the plan yesterday as a step in the right direction.

"We have to be pleasantly surprised by the commission's report," said Delegate Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, who chairs the county's 13-member House delegation. "For a while it looked like we were going to be the sacrificial lamb."

Democratic and Republican proposals presented last month would have carvedthe county into as many as three pieces, much to the chagrin of U.S. Representative Tom McMillen. Anne Arundel makes up the bulk of McMillen's district, which also includes parts of Prince George's and Howard.

"Our call for fairness came through," said Jerry Grant, McMillen's chief of staff. "We basically wanted to keep Anne Arundel County intact as much as we could. And we did."

The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee agreed to recommend its plan, 4-1, Tuesday night after conducting 14 public hearings around the state. Anotherpublic hearing is scheduled, for Sept. 3,before the General Assemblyvotes on the plan in a special session Sept. 25.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he will oppose the plan, which wouldshift Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, into the same district with Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st. Bentley now represents Harford and Baltimore counties, Gilchrest the Eastern Shore.

"He's very concerned and quite displeased with the plan. He feels that it could do great damage to the state," said Assistant Press Secretary Ray Feldmann. "He believes that basically it brings areas of thestate together that were never meant to be together. For example, people on the Eastern Shore have entirely different wants and needs then people in Harford and Baltimore counties.

"He didn't get into the issue of pitting Helen Bentley against Wayne Gilcrest," Feldmann said. "He focused his comments on the concerns of the people on the Eastern Shore."

State Sen. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, proposed hisown plan yesterday which would preserve a congressional district in Anne Arundel County as well as protect the seat held by Bentley, the state's senior Republican.

Barbara Wilkins, Cade's aide, outlined the plan for Anne Arundel lawmakers. She said his plan would accomplish two goals: keep Anne Arundel intact and create two minority districts, one in Baltimore and another in Prince George's County.

Rapidgrowth in the black population of Prince George's County means that a new minority district has to be created to meet the criteria of thefederal Voting Rights Act.

Cade's plan would pit Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, against Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, in a unified Baltimore district.

Delegate W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, said he preferred Cade's plan to the committee's because it would shift several South Baltimore neighborhoods, including Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, into the county's district. He said North County residents have common environmental concerns with the city residents.

State Sen. Michael J.Wagner, D-Ferndale, said, "Cade's plan is good for Anne Arundel County, the commission's plan is good for the county," he said.

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