Feaga Says Redistricting Is Tailor-made For Democrats

Republican Criticizes Plan, Says Deal Was Cut To Protect Pendergrass

September 25, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Republican Charles C. Feaga says he is wondering if the three council Democrats cut a redistricting deal to protect Shane Pendergrass, D-1st.

Feaga says the redistricting plan proposed by Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, and tentatively adopted by the council Monday "went out of its way in the extreme" to protect Pendergrass, who had to lose at least 11,192 people from her district.

"All three (council Democrats) are considering a run for county executive," Feaga said. "And you wonder if Shane agreed to step aside in order to get the district she wanted."

"That's a good one," Pendergrass responded. "I can say unequivocally there were no deals. I am flattered that Charlie considers me a candidate for county executive. I have not made up my mind and will not until after the presidential election."

Gray said, "Charlie is seeing bogeymen. There was nodeal. He should at least give me some credit for redistricting with a certain logic."

Gray shepherded the council through its first districting process in 1986 and served on a state redistricting committee in 1982.

Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, also says there was no deal.

"The map was well thought out," he said. "We had the challenge of making major modifications, and I think the map does that fairly. It reflects some of the input I gave Vernon, and it reflects what the Savage-Laurel people and some of the Elkridge people asked for. I am also pleased it does not pit two incumbents against each other."

By law, the council must redraw district lines by next March to reflect population changes recorded in the 1990 Census. Pendergrass and Drownhad to lose precincts; Farragut, Feaga and Gray had to gain them.

The Gray plan both adds and deletes precincts from the Pendergrass and Drown districts. Pendergrass, for example, would pick up Allview Estates from Farragut and Hammond Village from Feaga. She also would shed five Elkridge precincts she lost in 1990 by 511 votes.

Drown, who needs to trim at least 3,290 people from his district, would loseDorsey's Search and a portion of Dorsey Hall to Farragut. He would lose Mount Hebron, Centennial Estates and Pine Orchard Meadows to Feaga, but would pick up Elkridge, Montgomery Woods and Hunt Club Estatesfrom Pendergrass.

Although those changes don't appear to hurt hischances of being re-elected -- he would win by an even wider margin if voting patterns held -- Drown says they are not good for the county.

"They revive the old Howard County-Columbia split," he said, "giving Columbia three precincts when they have only 40 percent of the voters." Historically, Columbia has voted Democratic; the rest of thecounty has gone Republican.

"Vernon was trying to get us (Republicans), and he got us," Drown said.

Carol Arscott, chairman of the local Republican Central Committee agreed, saying, "If the goal was to minimize Republican gains to the maximum extent possible, he did a pretty good job. But for how long, remains to be seen."

Gray said the council will vote tonight on whether to introduce the districtingplan as a bill or a resolution. Bills can be vetoed or overturned ina voter referendum. Resolutions cannot. Bills petitioned to referendum are put on hold until the next election. Resolutions take effect immediately.

Barbara Cook, the county's chief legal officer, told County Executive Charles I. Ecker recently that redistricting should be done by bill. But former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, the council's legal consultant, says a resolution is "legally defensible."

Ecker says he would not rule out a possible veto of Gray's map until after he has a chance to study it. He also said he was uncertain how he would respond if the council passed redistricting as aresolution rather than a bill.

"It is important to uphold the law," he said, "and upholding the law may mean going to court" and letting a judge decide which way redistricting should be accomplished.

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