Assembly reaches accord on congressional map Senate adopts plan

House to vote today

October 22, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- After weeks of bitter wrangling, threats of court action and scores of competing maps, the General Assembly reached a consensus last night on eight new congressional districts for Maryland.

The new map would pit Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, in a congressional district that extends from Curtis Bay in Baltimore City to Crisfield on the southernmost end of the Eastern Shore.

The Senate approved the plan late last night 36-10, cutting off a filibuster by Anne Arundel County senators after two hours of debate. The House was expected to vote on the plan today.

The final product angered Anne Arundel legislators by splitting the county among four representatives: Mr. McMillen and Representatives Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, and Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd.

While Mr. Gilchrest said he would run in the district, an aide to Mr. McMillen said polling would determine their next move. A congressman is not required to live in the district he represents.

"We'll look at all of our options," said McMillen aide Jerry Grant, who has said the congressman may run in another congressional district or against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., next year. "It's shame this has to happen to Anne Arundel County."

"This is the very best we could do under the circumstances," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., D-Prince George's, appearing with House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, after a compromise was reached.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer will sign the legislation creating the new districts today, an aide said. The districts will first be used in the primary next March and in all congressional elections for the next decade.

Mr. Mitchell emerged as one of the biggest winners in the redistricting marathon that began Sept. 24 and was slated to end Thursday. The speaker achieved his prime objective in keeping his native Eastern Shore intact, winning the backing of the governor. The bulk of the McMillen-Gilchrest district, about 343,000 residents out of 597,000, will be on the Shore.

A Senate plan would have split Cecil County from the Shore in an effort to shift the bulk of a McMillen-Gilchrest district to Anne Arundel, Mr. McMillen's home county.

0$ Mr. Miller, a strongly partisan

Democrat, had hoped to assist Mr. McMillen, a fellow Democrat with some more favorable political turf. But, in the end, Mr. McMillen was only able to pick up about 14,000 Baltimore residents in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, strongly Democratic areas now represented by Mr. Cardin.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bentley was drawn into Anne Arundel County to pick up 46,000 residents in the peninsula that extends to Gibson Island, a heavily Republican area. That was also designed to help Mr. McMillen.

Despite these efforts, Mr. McMillen ended up disappointed. Sources involved in the process said Mr. McMillen asked for nearly 100,000 voters in Baltimore to shore up his Democratic base but was able to gain only 39,000 in talks with state lawmakers. But even that number was whittled down by state senators and Mr. Cardin, who was unwilling to part with certain areas.

"It doesn't help McMillen," state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Anne Arundel, said of the proposal. "Anne Arundel County still gets stuck."

Two congressmen were required to double up because of twin political necessities: a majority-black district in Prince George's and Montgomery counties to satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act and a "safe seat" for Mr. Hoyer, a House leader who keeps Maryland awash in federal funds. Yesterday's plan met both objectives.

That left seven members of Congress but six congressional seats.

Ironically, the Republicans often came out on top in a process controlled by Democrats, a testament to regional interests and friends in high places. Mr. Gilchrest retained most of his district, while Representative Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, saw her district change little.

And Mrs. Bentley, who at first was to be placed in a district with Mr. Gilchrest, beat back those attempts with the help of the governor, who viewed her strong maritime voice as important to the state. The Lutherville congresswoman now has a prime district.

"Looks like a fair plan," said Kevin Igoe, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. Besides favorable districts for all three GOP representatives, Mr. Igoe predicted possible wins elsewhere. "The right candidate can take out Hoyer," he said.

Mr. Hoyer will now run in an area that extends from Prince George's and Anne Arundel in the north to the three Southern Maryland counties, Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert.

In last-minute shifts, the Prince George's congressman lost choice Democratic areas in Montgomery County and was given more conservative areas around Fort Meade and Crofton in Anne Arundel.

Republicans and some Democrats believe the relatively conservative area could leave him open to a strong GOP challenge.

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