Maryland's congressional lawmakers, whose political careers could be on the line, today urged a legislative committee in Annapolis to consider their record of service to voters when adopting new district maps.
One after another, five of the state's eight congressional members asked a joint House-Senate committee to draw district lines that are fair and reasonable and, above all, give them a good shot at re-election.
"The Maryland delegation works as a unit for all of Maryland," said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, the delegation's highest ranking member.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly is to convene in a special session to try to adopt a final plan.
While lawmakers had originally hoped the issue could be decided in a day, new disagreements between the leaders of the state Senate and House of Delegates threaten to extend the session for days.
The No. 1 disagreement appears to be the fate of Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, who now represents Anne Arundel County and part of neighboring Prince George's.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. wants to play loyal Democratic politics and protect McMillen by leaving him in a Democratic-dominated district with no incumbent to challenge him.
McMillen, who stands to lose the most under the redistricting panel plan, today calmly but not surprisingly told committee members he prefers the plan advocated by Miller.
Across the State House lobby, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, voted last week for a plan that would lump McMillen into a district that includes Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd. Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat but loyal supporter of Bentley, likes the proposal as well.
Miller, D-Prince George's, supports an option that puts Bentley in a district that would extend from her home in Lutherville over to the Eastern Shore. That would likely force her to run against a fellow Republican, first-term Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st.
"I don't think Tom McMillen is a mediocre congressman," Miller said yesterday. "He stands tall literally and figuratively," he added, referring to the former basketball star's 6-foot, 11-inch frame.
Gilchrest, Miller argued, "has absolutely no seniority," and should be vulnerable during redistricting in a Democratic-controlled state.
Miller and Mitchell, who sat together on a special redistricting panel appointed by Schaefer, appeared to be together on the issue until last week. With Miller in Ireland on a working tour, Mitchell joined two other members of the panel to adopt a revised plan that throws McMillen in with Bentley.
Miller, who said he was surprised and outraged by the panel's action, arrived at the State House yesterday ready to do battle for McMillen.
"I think I'm right," Miller said. "It's clear cut. I know where I'm headed."
Mitchell yesterday promised that the disagreement between the two top legislative leaders would be resolved.
Another problem facing lawmakers is what will happen to Baltimore County under new congressional maps. State Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, told feloow committee members today he is worried that area residents will not have adequate representation in Congress if the county is parceled into four or five congressional districts, as some plans propose.
But Hoyer tried to assure state lawmakers that the entire congressional delegation usually works as a "unit' for the benefit of the entire state.