Bentley's redistricting woes elicit sympathy from political friends, foes

August 25, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Sun Staff Correspondent

OCEAN CITY — An article on reactions to a redistricting proposal yesterday incorrectly described Representative Helen Delich Bentley as a two-term congresswoman. In fact, the 2nd District Republican is in her fourth term.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

OCEAN CITY -- Representative Helen Delich Bentley, the two-term Republican congresswoman from Baltimore County, found herself in the camp of the potential enemy here yesterday.

But then the potential enemy, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., arrived with hugs and sympathy.

Mrs. Bentley -- whose congressional district has been drawn out from under her by a redistricting committee -- has said she might run against Ms. Mikulski if she doesn't get a district more to her liking.


And Senator Mikulski said yesterday that she thinks Representative Bentley has a point. The 2nd District congresswoman, who is a former Federal Maritime Commission chairwoman, deserves to remain in a district that includes the Essex and Dundalk voters who would be in another district under the proposal, Ms. Mikulski said.

A number of other Maryland officeholders here this weekend for the Maryland Association of Counties convention agreed.

"How petty can you be?" asked Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening. Given Mrs. Bentley's connections to the Baltimore port, he said, and even taking into account the usual political considerations, one had to ask, "How could this happen?

"I hope this will not move ahead," Mr. Glendening said. Usually, he said, people don't care much about the process of redistricting, but he said that may change this time.

Mrs. Bentley lives in Lutherville, which the proposal would put in a 1st District stretching from eastern Baltimore County around the bay to take in the Eastern Shore. Most of the proposed 1st is the present turf of Wayne T. Gilchrest, and Mrs. Bentley has said that she will not challenge the freshman representative, a fellow Republican. She says that she is so distressed by the proposed lines that she might run in the recommended 3rd or 4th Districts.

While Mrs. Bentley's case is drawing most of the attention, a number of public officials said they plan to oppose the proposed district map when it is presented for a public hearing on Sept. 3 in Annapolis.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, is upset that the Jewish community of Baltimore County is split by the lines

separating the proposed 3rd and 7th Districts.

Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat, said he is unhappy with a proposal that would put his congressman, Benjamin L. Cardin, in a different district.

"I plan to testify against the plan on Sept. 3," he said.

The Bentley matter bothered him as well, he said. "She's very important to Maryland. Having someone with access to the Republican White House is important," he said, calling the plan "almost mindless."

And Garrett County Commissioner Barbara J. Butscher said that she finds the proposal "disgusting." As a Republican candidate for the national party's convention, she said, she would now be required to campaign in her far Western Maryland region and in Harford County, at least 3 1/2 hours away.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer reiterated his opposition. "Taking the port from Helen Bentley makes no sense at all. She has done more for the port than anyone," he said.

Mr. Schaefer, whose aides are joining a number of others who plan to protest the plan on Sept. 3, said he believes the proposal is largely the work of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.

Mr. Miller has said that court orders, population shifts and topography gave the commission a difficult task.

Mr. Schaefer said yesterday that he does not know if he would veto the proposed map if it were approved by the legislature. Asked if he planned to submit a plan of his own, he said, "I think I might."

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