Congressional Redistricting Plan Stirs Mixed Emotions

Cardin And Hoyer Express Skepticism

August 28, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

Representative Benjamin Cardin, D-3rd, isn't happy with losing Howard County under a proposed congressional redistricting plan.

And Representative Steny Hoyer, D-5th, isn't sure he's all that happy aboutgetting a piece of it.

A proposal released last week by an advisory committee to the governor places Columbia and Elkridge in Democratic Representative Tom McMillen's 4th District. Cardin had represented parts of eastern Columbia and Elkridge.

Hoyer, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, would represent a reorganized 5th District, which includes the western partof the county and stretches to Calvert County in Southern Maryland.

"Howard County changed radically 10 years ago," Cardin said, referring to the 1980 redistricting process. "It's unfair to take a community that has already been changed once and change it again after building political networks to be effective in Congress."

Hoyer was "somewhat surprised" that Howard County was included in the proposed 5th District, said his press secretary, Charles Seigel.

"He's mulling it over and discussing whether the whole plan really makes sense ornot," Seigel said.

Elected officials and political observers in the county aren't convinced that the proposal makes sense either, and some say

that the shift in districts will prove to be destabilizing for the county as a whole.

"It's not that anybody on the committee has anything against either of the two congresspeople Howard County would get," said Sue-Ellen Hantman, president of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.

"But every time you establish a working relationship with a congressperson, they're changing our congressional districts," she said.

Under the plan, Howard County would fall completely within the 4th and 5th congressional districts, insteadof the three districts in which the county now lies. Representative Beverly Byron, D-6th, would lose the portion of her district in western Howard County.

The Howard County Democratic Central Committee plans to testify against the proposal at a public hearing on the plan next week.It will request that eastern Columbia remain in the 3rd District and western Howard County remain in the 6th.

Like Cardin, the committee is concerned that this latest boundary change is the third time in 10 years that eastern Howard County has switched congressional districts, Hantman said.

Under the redistricting proposal, Hantman said, only 7,000 county residents would stay in their current districts.

The plan has also raised questions about the reasons behind placing the western portion of the county in the new 5th District,which also includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties and Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties.

"That's stretching it a bit in terms of commonality of interests," said Delegate Virginia Thomas, D-13-A, Howard. "Steny Hoyer is an outstanding representative, but we need to look at what's in the best interest of Howard County."

McMillen, who currently represents a small portion of the county in eastern Columbia, Savage, and North Laurel areas, will pick up the entire northeastern part of the county, including Columbia andEllicott City, with a population of 123,000.

McMillen said he is pleased with the proposed district lines and said that Howard and Anne Arundel have a lot in common.

"They both have growth issues, they both have a lot of people working in Washington," McMillen said.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to draw boundaries to conform tothe latest census figures.

The Redistricting Advisory Committee considered testimony from 14 public hearings held in June and July before drafting its proposed plan. The new congressional districts may be adopted or rejected by the General Assembly at a special session onSept. 25.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Sept.3 at 5 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building at 90 State Circle in Annapolis.

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