Black majority district OK'd in Baltimore Co. Republicans, blacks are upset by boundaries

October 23, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The Baltimore County House and Senate delegations have passed a redistricting plan that would clear the way for the first black elected official to win office in county history.

But the plan that was passed 11-9 Monday night has come under fire because it would shift one Republican delegate into a Democratic district, has upset blacks who want more than one representative and has angered Republicans who see it as an attempt to squeeze them out.

Delegate Richard Rynd, D-11th, acting chairman of the county delegation, said the delegation was locked in by demands for black representation and by population declines in the eastern Baltimore County communities of Dundalk and Essex.

"We had to have a single-member district for minority representation, that was a given. It could have been in the 11th or the 10th, but we had to have it under the federal Voting Rights Act," he said.

The plan draws boundary lines that would establish a predominantly black single-member district in the Liberty Road corridor and attach it to the 10th Legislative District that stretches to northern Baltimore County.

That has upset black leaders in the Liberty Road area, who say the plan shortchanges them because their numbers justify at least two legislators.

About 82,000 blacks live in Baltimore County, roughly 12 percent of the county population.

Black leaders also argue that the plan inappropriately links them with a predominantly rural district that shares few of their interests.

"Nobody in the African-American community in Baltimore County is for that plan. It's outrageous," said Richmond Manigault, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee from Randallstown.

Republicans also are fuming because the plan would hit hardest in districts where they have won elections -- the 10th District in northern Baltimore County and the 8th District around Perry Hall.

State Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey, R-10th, said the plan reflects a siege mentality among Democrats who are anxious to counter Republican voter registration gains and election victories.

Baltimore County is still Democratic by a ratio of 2.5-to-1. But voters last fall elected a Republican county executive, three Republican County Council members and two freshman Republicans to the General Assembly.

"Redistricting is supposed to be about giving people fair representation, and clearly the outcome here is anything but fair," Ms. Sauerbrey said.

State Delegate John Bishop, R-9th, who lives in Parkville and is one of 22,000 people in the area that would be shifted into the 8th District, said he is so angry that he is considering running against Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-8th, in the 1994 Senate race.

"They want a war, they got a war," said Mr. Bishop, who is in his second term in the House. "This is not over, you haven't heard the last of it."

Mr. Bromwell, who led the redistricting plan through the Senate, said that as part of the plan he had to give up the Democratic stronghold of Rosedale because of population declines in neighboring districts.

"Do you honestly think I welcome putting someone in my district who will probably run against me?" he said. "I honestly tried to be fair in this, but being fair doesn't mean I'm going to fall on my sword."

Mr. Rynd said the plan will be sent to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's Redistricting Advisory Committee with letters of endorsement from the county House and Senate delegation leaders.

The governor's redistricting committee will then submit the plan, which could be modified, as part of its statewide redistricting proposal to the governor.

The governor will submit his redistricting plan to the General Assembly when the legislative session convenes in January. The legislature will have 45 days to act on it or come up with alternatives.

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