Pawns in redistricting play their own game: Where's My Line?

October 15, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Sun Staff Correspondent

OCEAN CITY -- Before his talk on business issues now pending before the U.S. Congress, Representative Tom McMillen wanted to get his bearings.

"I believe I'm in the 1st District," Mr. McMillen said. "Is that correct?"

The three-term Democratic congressman from Anne Arundel County knew as well as anyone that this seaside resort lies smack in the middle of the 1st Congressional District.

But possibly, he was suggesting, the boundaries had been changed yet again.

Mr. McMillen addressed his playful question to Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, the 1st District's incumbent.

In time, after this year's congressional redistricting is complete, Mr. McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Mr. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, may see JJTC good deal of each other in the 1st District as opponents in the 1992 election.

A proposed new map of Maryland's eight congressional districts now pending before the General Assembly would marry Ocean City and the rest of the Eastern Shore with much of Anne Arundel County, now represented by Mr. McMillen.

In an amiable, pre-election confrontation before the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Gilchrest and Mr. McMillen warmed up for what could be a more bracing encounter in next year's general election.

Mr. McMillen, who has been struggling to avoid being redrawn into a less hospitable constituency, said that he was about ready to see the redistricting chore taken over by the federal courts.

"That's my view today," he said in another reference to how quickly the lines have changed.

"I might change my mind tomorrow."

Mr. Gilchrest, who has been content to see the process play out on its own, said he has come to think of redistricting as "recreational" and "amusing."

With all of its competition for Democratic or Republican voting strength, redistricting has become an arduous and drawn-out process in which members of the state's congressional delegation have been forced to jockey against each other.

"It's like putting a beehive in the living room and expecting them to behave," he said.

As he has before, Mr. Gilchrest said that he is willing to go back to his home in Kennedyville in Kent County and resume his career teaching American government at the secondary school level.

"It is not my last breath that is on the line here," he said.

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