Reaction to a new congressional redistricting plan that would lop off the southern tip of Anne Arundel County and pit Tom McMillen, D-4th, against Helen Bentley, R-2nd, is divided along party lines -- most Republicans support the plan, while Democrats oppose it.
Despite partisan interests, officials from both parties agree that splitting the county even a little bit would be detrimental to Anne Arundel's political future.
Some of the GOP faithful however, admit they could accept losing a small part of the county in exchange for a chance have Bentley as their representative. In any case, they say, a rough and tumble race next fall between the two lawmakers would be interesting to watch.
The two principles are less than enthusiastic -- Bentley opposes the plan and McMillen won't comment.
The new redistricting scheme, proposed Thursday by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee, replaces a McMillen-backed plan that would have put Bentley into the 1st District, where she would have gone up against fellow Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest.
In the latest plan, the 4th District would include all but the southernmost portion of Anne Arundel County, jump across the Patapsco River to Dundalk, Sparrows Point, Timonium and Lutherville in Baltimore County.
Bentley said the latest plan is preferable to the original redistricting outline, since she would keep the area around the Port of Baltimore, plus she would be running against Democrat McMillen instead of Gilchrest.
"It is interesting," she said Friday. "It is a better district than the other one. But the way they have me tied into the port district is real gerrymandering. The district jumps across the water and slithers up along the city into Lutherville to get my house in."
Bentley said she doesn't like the plan because it splits Baltimore County into five districts and cuts up her present district into four. "I think there will be other plans to come down," she said.
The biggest concern here is keeping the county intact.
"Anne Arundel County deserves to be in the congressional district that it dominates, where we have some control," said County Executive Robert R. Neall. "Either plan does that.
"My ideal point of view is to keep Anne Arundel completely intact. But we're talking about variables. If this goes through, Anne Arundel will make out a lot better than Baltimore County."
Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, said protecting McMillen is the top priority for county Democrats. "We want a plan that makes some sense," he said. "What does Lutherville have to do with Anne Arundel County?"
Wagner, like other delegates and senators, said they want to wait until Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, returns from vacation before formulating a plan that would keep the county from being split.
Miller, a member of the governor's redistricting committee whosupported the original plan that protected McMillen, was in Ireland when the new plan was voted in.
Sen. Phillip C. Jimeno, Brooklyn Park, agreed. "Miller was our biggest proponent, our biggest ally," hesaid. "I'm sure things will flare up when he comes back. I'm concerned that there will be a deadlock and I don't know how we will resolveit."
Republican lawmakers say they will work to keep the entire county in one congressional district.
State Sen. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, said, "We've had our county intact for 20 years. I don't think anyone wants to step backward from that."
Cade, the minorityleader in the Senate, said he opposed a plan from his own Republicanparty that split the county. "I can't see sticking a little sliver of land up through Baltimore County to reach Bently so she can go up against McMillen," he said.
But Delegate John Gary Jr., R-Millersville, said he liked the plan. "Obviously, the newest proposal is not bad to Anne Arundel County," he said. "It does accomplish keeping mostof the county in the district."
Gary said the plan is acceptable because it could give Anne Arundel County a Republican representative. "I think Bentley, if she chose to run for that Congressional seat, could beat McMillen," he said.
Bentley believes she could beat McMillen. "I think I can beat him," she said. "I have no problem with that."
Jimeno, however, sees it differently. "I'm sure Helen Bentleydoesn't like the plan," Jimeno said. "I'm not so sure she can beat McMillen in this district."