Redistricting irks all 3 Md. congresswomen

September 18, 1991|By Tom Bowman

Maryland's proposed congressional map, which caused a bipartisan furor when it was released last month, has produced a new level of dissent: It has alienated the state's three congresswomen in one fell swoop.

"Have they got a thing against the women in the delegation?" Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, asked yesterday. She was referring to the latest changes being circulated by the governor's advisory committee on redistricting, which would affect her and Representatives Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, and Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th.

In these proposals, all three lawmakers see changes they oppose:

* Mrs. Morella's Montgomery County district would take in small portions of Howard, Frederick and Carroll counties.

* Mrs. Bentley's cherished areas of Dundalk and a portion of Essex would be added to a redrawn 1st Congressional District. If she moved to that district, she could find herself pitted against another Republican, Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, who now represents the 1st District.

* Mrs. Byron would lose a small portion of her Frederick County base. Her Western Maryland district would extend from Garrett County to Harford County.

"Beverly Byron is livid about the plan. Connie Morella is very unhappy with the plan," Mrs. Bentley said following a meeting with her two colleagues. "It's as bad or even worse" than the plan released last month, said the Lutherville Republican. "There's no geographic integrity in this thing."

Mrs. Byron, complaining she would lose 33,000 voters in Frederick County and another 37,000 in Carroll County, called for a plan "more fair and equal."

Mrs. Morella did not return a reporter's phone call, but an aide said she would favor a district located solely in Montgomery County, which she now represents.

Meanwhile yesterday, another change was being discussed that would move Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, into a portion of Montgomery County. That would be a switch from the plan released last month that offered Mr. Hoyer a portion of Howard County.

In addition, Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, would absorb portions of Howard County, a region he now represents, but which was removed in last month's redistricting plan. He would also pick up additional areas of Howard County, including Ellicott City.

Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Cardin have said they favored the respective moves into Montgomery and Howard counties.

Representative Tom McMillen,D-Md.-4th, would share Columbia with Mr. Cardin under the newly proposed changes. Mr. McMillen also would absorb voters in East Baltimore and a portion of Essex. Mr. McMillen declined to discuss the new proposals, saying only that he backed the earlier plan.

The newest changes to the plan offered last month by Gov. William Donald Schaefer's five-member advisory committee were suggested Monday during a meeting between the governor and two key committee members: Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr.

Mr. Schaefer, who vowed to veto the original plan, has yet to sign off on the changes now being circulated, said an aide. "I think all of them are moving very cautiously right now," said the aide. "I think they want to be accommodating with each other."

Those involved in the redistricting process, however, note that whenever any change is drafted, new opposition emerges.

There were some new areas of approval yesterday. Two Democraticsenators from Montgomery County -- Laurence Levitan and Mary H. Boergers -- said they would welcome Mr. Hoyer in their county, noting his House leadership position and seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Time is running out for drafting a redistricting plan. The General Assembly is slated to vote in a special session that begins next Wednesday on new congressional district lines, which are redrawn each decade. The new districts will be used in the state primary in March.

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