McMillen and Byron finish with least favorable districts in remapping

October 23, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN GRAPHICS/ROBERT CRONANSun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- "I'm disappointed."

That was how Representative Tom McMillen summed up congressional redistricting. He had good reason to feel that way.

Mr. McMillen watched as his current congressional district was divided among five other districts. And he ended up being thrown into potentially hostile political turf with another sitting congressman, Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st.

The Crofton Democrat even saw his own town split and given to Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th. Only one Crofton precinct -- where the congressman calls home -- will go into the McMillen-Gilchrest district.

In the last three statewide elections, most of the voters in the newly created district tended to vote for Republican candidates, according to Jerry Grant, an aide to Mr. McMillen. In the new district, 44.9 percent of voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates. Only the district drawn for Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th., where 44.6 percent voted for Democrats, was more unfavorable for a Democrat.

By contrast, in the districts for Mr. Hoyer and Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, Democrats won 56.3 percent and 60.1 percent of the vote, respectively.

"The process was designed more for political protection than what's good for the state," said Mr. McMillen, who also strived for political protection but lost out. "The voters of Maryland will decide next year who they want to represent them."

VTC Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, who wanted to help fellow Democrat McMillen, was outmatched by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., Democrats who had priorities that did not include Mr. McMillen. The governor wanted to preserve Republican Representative Helen Delich Bentley's 2nd District around the Baltimore port, and the speaker from Kent County did not want any tampering with his native Eastern Shore.

The House of Delegates backed the new redistricting plan yesterday afternoon by a 110 to 22 vote. Governor Schaefer is scheduled to sign it into law today.

Weary and slumped in his chair after the Senate backed the plan late Monday night, Mr. Miller also said he was disappointed. Mr. McMillen would face an "uphill battle" in a race against Mr. Gilchrest, the senator predicted, but could win if he "works hard and campaigns hard."

But the third-term congressman said he is uncertain whether he will run in the district left him or run elsewhere. A congressman is not required to live in the district he represents.

Mr. McMillen said he will travel to parts of his current district -- which, besides Anne Arundel, includes portions of Howard and Prince George's counties -- and "get some feeling from voters" about what he should do. He also plans to visit the Shore and learn its "issues and concerns."

Mr. Gilchrest, meanwhile, has no doubt he will run for the congressional seat in the newly drawn 1st District.

"We'll go over [to the Western Shore] and start campaigning," the freshman Republican said. But he said congressional business will keep him in his current district or Washington until Christmas.

"I understand that people need to see who I am," said the congressman.

Although the redistricting plan passed by a wide margin, it drew opposition from Anne Arundel County lawmakers, irritated that their county was cut four ways.

But the plan also was opposed by some Montgomery and Prince George's County lawmakers -- both black and white -- over the creation of a majority-black district that straddles the counties.

Maryland's new congressional districts

Here is the congressional map approved yesterday by the Maryland General Assembly. State map-makers could not provide the street boundaries of each district yesterday.

The state legislature redraws congressional districts every 10 years to reflect population changes reported by the census.

The large increase in black population in the Washington suburbs during the 1980's convinced state lawmakers that they would have to create a majority-black district (District 4) to conform with the federal Voting Rights Act. That law prohibits the dilution of minority voting strength.

Maryland lawmakers also wanted to forge a "safe seat" (District 5) for Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, who as a House leader and member of the powerful Appropriations Committee keeps federal dollars streaming to the state.

Since Maryland did not gain enough population to deserve an additional congressional seat, the state continues to have eight members of Congress. With seats set aside for a majority-black district and a Hoyer seat, seven congressmen were left with only six available seats.

Two congressmen -- Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st -- were therefore chosen to double up in a newly configured District 1 that stretches from Curtis Bay in Baltimore to Ocean City.

To achieve the changes, Anne Arundel County was split among four districts: District 1 and districts represented by Mr. Hoyer and Representatives Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, and Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd.

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