Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, said she expects all but one of her colleagues to sign off today on a congressional redistricting map that would help her, but one fellow Republican does not plan on being rushed.
"I have not signed off on it, and I don't know if I will sign off on it tomorrow," Rep. Wayne T. Gilcrest, R-1st, said last evening.
"There are many plans floating around," said Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6th. "I'm not sure which one she [Bentley] is referring to."
Byron said at least five of Maryland's eight-member congressional delegation, including Bentley, are drafting a "consensus" plan.
Bentley sounded a very optimistic note during a news conference in Baltimore yesterday when she outlined a plan that would put her on surer political footing by keeping her Baltimore County base fairly intact.
She said she expected a thumbs-up from all the representatives but Tom McMillen, D-4th. "Seven of the eight are expected to sign off on it by tomorrow," Bentley said yesterday.
Bentley wants to draw one district that consists primarily of Baltimore and Harford counties, thereby preserving her base.
To Bentley's chagrin, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's redistricting panel last month released a plan that would largely eliminate her base but preserve McMillen's base in Anne Arundel County. Under that map, Bentley's residence would be put in a district dominated by the Eastern Shore and represented by Gilchrest.
Bentley, however, wants to attach part of Anne Arundel to the Eastern Shore district, a move that McMillen has steadily opposed.
But even if the entire congressional delegation falls behind a single remapping proposal, a "consensus plan" may have little effect on the outcome of the plan that is scheduled to be put before the General Assembly on Sept. 25.
Key members of the governor's redistricting panel have been meeting this week to make adjustments to their plan. They are not likely even to consider the plan backed by Bentley and other dissident members of the congressional delegation, according to sources close to the issue.
Proposed revisions to the panel's plan were reviewed earlier this week by Schaefer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. The two legislators, both Democrats, are members of the governor's remapping panel.
Mitchell and staff aides worked privately on the plan yesterday in Annapolis and periodically spoke with Miller, who is on a four-day trip to Ireland. Work on the plan was to continue today.
Top lawmakers have placed a self-imposed deadline of 5 p.m. tomorrow for drafting bills to be submitted for the special session. Sources said yesterday they are unsure whether a finalized redistricting plan will be ready by the deadline.
To enlist Schaefer's support and to avoid a possible veto of the plan, Miller and Mitchell reportedly are willing to put the Port of Baltimore area -- a strong base of Bentley's support -- into a single district. And to gain the support of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, they are leaning toward returning parts of Howard County to his current district that includes parts of Baltimore and Baltimore County.
Among the consequences of the governor's redistricting plan is the prospect that Bentley will have to challenge Gilchrest if she wants to run for a House seat.
If Bentley chooses not to run against Gilchrest, she can elect to oppose Cardin or, as she has threatened repeatedly, run for a U.S. Senate seat.