The only thing certain about next year's race in the new 1st Congressional District is that Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest says he's going to run.
There are other potential candidates, but before they commit some are taking a close look at the congressional district boundaries drawn by the General Assembly.
Democratic Rep. Tom McMillen, who like Gilchrest has his home in the 1st District, said he hasn't decided whether to run there or in another district.
Before he makes up his mind, McMillen said, he intends to travel around the state and see what "the concerns are."
"I think I'm going to try to go to the people and seek a mandate for something," he said yesterday.
The newly drawn 1st District includes all of the Eastern Shore, part of Anne Arundel County and 14,000 people in the Curtis Bay-Brooklyn area of South Baltimore.
Whoever represents it might want to get a boat as well as a car to get around.
The final shape of the district was in doubt until legislative leaders reached agreement Monday on new boundaries for all eight congressional districts.
After the Senate approved a redistricting plan Monday night, the House of Delegates followed suit yesterday on a vote of 110-22. Delegates from Anne Arundel County mounted a late protest because the plan divides their county into four congressional districts.
At a brief ceremony today in the State House, Gov. William Donald Schaefer signed the bill into law.
Despite the acrimony the new plan causes among Anne Arundel County lawmakers, Schaefer said he was happy that the issue was resolved by the General Assembly.
"I'm really pleased that a compromise was settled on," he said. "We'll never have something that everybody's satisfied with."
The governor, whose role as a potential arbiter in the redistricting process appeared to grow more likely while the House and Senate bickered over which plan should be accepted, said it would have been "bad" for the state had a federal judge been called on to resolve the issue.
With the bill signed into law, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, said today it is time lawmakers addressed other matters.
"I think it's time to move on to the real problem with our state -- the fiscal one," he said in reference to serious shortfalls in state revenues.
But for others, the bill-signing ceremony may not signify the end of the redistricting controversy.
Del. John G. Gary, R-Anne Arundel, called the plan an "abomination" and said he will investigate the possibility of challenging it in court. Barring a successful challenge, the new districts will be in effect when the party primaries take place March 3.
In the meantime, McMillen and other politicians are studying the new district maps, calculating the odds precinct by precinct.
McMillen's top aide, Jerry Grant, said the three-term congressman probably will run in the 1st District.
But McMillen refused to pin himself down, saying he has "many, many options," including a run against fellow Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of the 5th District. A person doesn't have to live in a district to represent it in Congress.
He has options because the legislature obliterated his current district and divided up Anne Arundel County, where he lives, among the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Districts.
McMillen's problem is that the county pieces in each district are so small they don't represent a voting majority in any district.
Despite the loss of much of his base, McMillen refused to accept the judgment of many other politicians that redistricting hurt him the most.
"Whether I'm the person hurt in the process or not is to be determined," he said. "That chapter has not been written."
McMillen expressed outrage at what happened to Anne Arundel County, saying he had proposed a plan that didn't require dissecting any jurisdiction.
"I think it's politics over substance," he said. "My own feeling on that is I think political careers and political ambitions shouldn't distort what's right for the state. I think this plan is a gerrymander."
A Republican who wants to challenge McMillen, Lisa Renshaw, lives in a part of Severn that she believes is in the 1st District. Even if it isn't, she says she will run in the 1st District and challenge Gilchrest in the Republican primary.
"I lump Wayne Gilchrest in the same boat with Tom McMillen. They're both liberals," said Renshaw, who owns parking lots in Baltimore.
Robert Duckworth, an Anne Arundel Republican who received 41 percent of the vote against McMillen last year, hasn't decided where he'll run. He says his Crofton home, Annapolis office and Severna Park campaign headquarters may be in three different districts.
He's sure of one thing: "I'm going to run for Congress."
On the Democratic side, McMillen doesn't have any opponents yet if he does choose the 1st District. But the fact that more than half the district's 600,000 residents reside on the Eastern Shore could tempt someone from that side of the bay to run.