New Balto. Co. district gets backing Single-delegate district would ease way for blacks.

September 20, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Although some sharp disputes remain, Baltimore County's legislative delegation appears agreed on creating a new, single-delegate district in the heavily black area of lower Liberty Road that would pave the way for the election of the county's first black elected official in 1994.

Any candidate for the House of Delegates in the proposed Liberty Road district would run only for the one seat available there.

A group of politically active blacks in the area supports the idea, though at least one community leader who also is black opposes it.

Harold Gordon, a black candidate for County Council in 1990 from the same area, said a minority district is needed to allow blacks to get a foot in the door.

"The first thing you need to do is get in," he said of blacks' efforts to build a political base in the county. Without such a special district, he said, it may take two more elections or longer for a black candidate to get elected.

Ella White Campbell, a prominent community leader and herself a candidate for the House of Delegates in 1990, said the new district would merely isolate the black community politically, and send a bad message to whites within its borders, causing more white flight.

"No, we don't want that," she said of the new district.

Legislative district lines must be moved based on the 1990 census, to keep the population of each district as close to the ideal size of 101,733 as possible.

The details of the separate plans being worked on by the county's House and Senate delegations have caused several arguments among the legislators. The county House delegation is to meet and vote on its plan Sept. 25, when the General Assembly meets in special session to decide congressional redistricting, said chairman Del. E. Farrell Maddox, D-Balto. Co. The senators aren't to meet until sometime after that, said delegation chairman Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Balto. Co.

He said the senators want to wait until the city's changes are clearer and then the county House and Senate delegations will work out any differences in the two plans.

Maddox and Bromwell said they are strongly opposed to city districts coming across the county line to get more people. Both favor the city keeping eight districts with slightly less than the ideal number of people per district, if that proves legal.

The disputes among county legislators involve what district this new single-delegate subdistrict would be attached to.

The House plan puts it in the north county's 10th Legislative District. That would force the three incumbent Republican delegates and Democrat Lawrence A. LaMotte to run for the other two remaining seats if they seek re-election.

The result would be either one or two fewer Republicans in the House. Democrats in the delegation note, however, that the GOP may be able to win additional seats in the White-Marsh-Perry Hall, Loch Raven Reservoir area.

In addition, freshman Democratic state senator, Janice Piccinini, dead set against absorbing the new single-delegate district into her own. She favors it remaining part of Pikesville's 11th Legislative District, now represented by Sen. Paula C. Hollinger.

Maddox said that would not work because it would put the black community in competition with the Jewish community, another minority group.

And Hollinger agrees. "I'm very supportive of the House version," she said.

Because 40 percent of Hollinger's district is black, she said, she already is being forced to chose between black and Jewish appointees to state boards and commissions. Creation of the new district favoring the election of a black delegate would "spread things out," and still leave her district with a 23 percent black constituency.

Republican Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who represents the northern county district, said Hollinger's stated reasons are "garbage." Her real reason for wanting the new district attached to the 10th instead of her own 11th District is to protect her own chances for re-election, Sauerbrey charged.

"It would ensure no black influence on the senatorial race," Sauerbrey said of Hollinger's motives. "To do what is being proposed greatly waters down the black vote."

Piccinini argued that to bind her north county rural district together with a purely urban area would be wrong. "They [Liberty Road residents] would be a minority voice in the 10th District," she said. "I hope my colleagues in the Senate won't pillage my district."

Piccinini also noted that she already will be losing territory on the east because lightly populated east side districts must push north to get more people.

LaMotte, who now runs in a single-member delegate district in far western rural Baltimore County -- a district linked to Carroll County's 5th Legislative District -- said he will be comfortable running in the rural 10th District in northern Baltimore County.

Republican incumbent Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., R-Balto. Co., who already represents the north county, objects to the majority plan. "It's ridiculous on its face," he said. "This is a power play to decrease Republican representation, at a time when Republicans are making big gains."

And Towson's Republican state senator, F. Vernon Boozer criticized the plan for the single-delegate district along Liberty Road, and said it might not be fair to the black community.

"They would soon have two or three delegates, maybe even a senator," if things remained the same, he said. Creating a largely black district for one delegate would hurt long-term black political aspirations, he said.

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