With a dash of sex, the congressional redistricting imbroglio could be another Dallas.
Clashing egos, backstabbing and intrigue have made a political soap opera of the Maryland legislature's stalemated effort to draw new congressional district boundaries.
The eight congressional incumbents are fighting with each other and with the state legislators who control their future. It's a conflict over power marked by regional as well as personal rivalry, with the Eastern Shore campaigning to preserve its clout and Anne Arundel County struggling to avoid being partitioned.
With no resolution at hand yesterday, the General Assembly was scheduled to meet again today in Annapolis to take up the issue.
House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. said he was sticking by his position that the legislature approve both the House and Senate redistricting plans and let the governor choose between them. Mitchell said the Senate can accept that approach "or come back to us with another plan."
Mitchell has threatened to end the special legislative session tonight unless an agreement is forged. The session is scheduled to end Thursday.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has rejected the two-plan idea thus far. "I'm just shocked at the possibility that Marylanders cannot agree on an issue as important as this," he said.
The Senate and House plans differ mainly over the district that would pit Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, against Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st.
In the Senate version, the district would include portions of Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore, minus Cecil County. The House wants to include Cecil County's 71,000 residents in the district and delete that many from Anne Arundel, making it more of a Shore district.
Mitchell is from the Shore. Miller, who is from Prince George's County, wants to help McMillen by allowing him to keep more of the Anne Arundel base he has now.
Miller also argues that it's fairer to have Anne Arundel County dominate the district because Anne Arundel has more population, 427,000 residents, than does the Eastern Shore, which has 343,000 when Cecil County is included.
Mitchell has proposed changes in the House plan to give McMillen a better mix of Democratic precincts in Anne Arundel County or Baltimore City. Although Miller rejected Mitchell's proposals, the leaders' ability to compromise has itself been compromised by objections from politicians who represent the affected areas.
Some state legislators from the city don't want their back yards thrown into a district that stretches to Ocean City. Anne Arundel politicians are similarly worried over where they'll end up when the final map is drawn.
The disputes over one district stand in the way of a deal, for Miller and Mitchell have virtually agreed on the rest of the Maryland congressional map.