WASHINGTON -- Democratic colleagues of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin have jumped to his defense against criticism by another Democrat, Rep. Tom McMillen, deepening state party divisions over redistricting.
McMillen, D-4th, went public Wednesday with his long-simmering private complaint that Cardin and other Democratic members of Congress were trying to sell him out to protect Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd.
The dispute centers on redistricting plans advanced by Cardin in concert with Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, Beverly Byron, D-6th, and Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, that would have put McMillen into competition with Eastern Shore Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st, and effectively protected Bentley.
Although a state redistricting panel rejected these plans and proposed one that largely preserves McMillen's district, McMillen said it was time to expose "back-room dealings" involving his Democratic colleagues and Bentley.
McMillen said Cardin appeared more interested in protecting Bentley than assuring adequate congressional representation for the Baltimore area.
"I can prove that Ben was the first to abandon Baltimore," McMillen said Wednesday, citing a plan he said Cardin sought to advance. "He was the first to split Baltimore in terms of the plan he submitted."
Cardin flatly denied that he had done so and, yesterday, Byron and Hoyer supported his position and criticized McMillen.
"I can't be quiet any longer," Byron said in a telephone call she initiated. "I resent questioning Ben Cardin's integrity."
Dean of Maryland's congressional delegation, she noted that McMillen's colleagues helped him land a sought-after committee post. She also defended the effort to help Bentley.
"Of course we talked to the Republicans," she said, noting the contributions Bentley and Rep. Constance Morella, R-8th, make to the state.
Hoyer also called a reporter and said, "It's unfortunate Tom chose to go to the papers on this, particularly when I think he was inaccurate in his representation."
McMillen, meanwhile, stood his ground, saying yesterday that his Democratic colleagues should be more concerned with helping a fellow Democrat than assisting Bentley.