Moving 'mountain' to Morella and back Candidate stops Mount Airy shuffle

October 25, 1991|By Tom Bowman

Besides creating hundreds of multicolored maps and reams of numbers, the computer wizards of congressional redistricting also moved mountains.

Mount Airy, to be exact.

The town, which straddles the border between Frederick and Carroll counties, was plucked from Representative Beverly B. Byron's 6th District and settled in the neighboring political domain of Representative Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, in an effort to balance the voter population.

That is until Delegate Tom Hattery, a Mount Airy Democrat, got wind of it.

Mr. Hattery, who has already kicked off his campaign to win the Democratic nomination from Mrs. Byron, didn't want to explain to voters why he lived in another district. In 45 minutes, he was able to get Mount Airy back into the 6th.

"He was everywhere when that happened," said an official involved in the process. "He never let anyone forget it."

In the marathon effort to draw a new congressional map, Maryland's eight congressmen were the leading players in the drama.

But there was a large supporting cast on that political stage: congressional candidates and potential candidates who closely watched -- and sometimes were able to influence -- where their precincts ended up. Not to mention the precincts of friends, family and electoral rivals.

There was a failed effort to remove Delegate Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, a possible congressional candidate, from the newly drawn majority-black district in the Washington suburbs of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, state lawmakers and aides said. Black candidates in Prince George's County feared that if they split the vote, a white candidate like Mr. Franchot could win.

Mr. Franchot's Takoma Park precinct, however, was surrounded by heavily black areas and he couldn't be switched to Mrs. Morella's district, the sources said.

There were attempts both to retain and remove GOP candidate Lisa Renshaw, said one legislative aide. The 30-year-old businesswoman has announced plans to oust Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, who was drawn into a newly created 1st District with Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st. Her Severn home in Anne Arundel County finally wound up in Representative Benjamin L. Cardin's district.

"The politicians gerrymandered me out of my district," said Ms. Renshaw, but she will forge ahead with her plans anyway.

L "It's only a couple of blocks away. I'm running in the 1st."

Congressmen need not live in the districts they represent, but they must reside inside the state's borders "when elected," according to the U.S. Constitution. Still, when home sweet home is not where you're running, the sticky charge of "carpetbagging" can arise.

Small scraps of paper, with scribbled ward and precinct numbers, circulated among State House mapmakers. They "all know where the others live," one official said. Little wonder that the popular form of address among state legislators during the past month was a cheerful, "Hello, congressman."

"They're going to look at it as a 10-year deal," said one congressional staffer involved in the once-a-decade process. "They're keeping open their options."

In Montgomery County, Democratic Delegate Brian E. Frosh and some of his colleagues were concerned that some solid Democratic precincts would be added to a district created for Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, made up mostly of Prince George's County. The loss of those Democratic voters in Montgomery would make it difficult for a Democrat to take on Mrs. Morella or her GOP successor.

"Brian Frosh wants to be a congressman," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. Mr. Hoyer ended up not getting a piece of Montgomery.

Mr. Frosh said he and others wanted Mr. Hoyer in the county but conceded they didn't want him to "sop up too much Democratic strength." He acknowledged an interest in running for Congress should Mrs. Morella retire. "Along with 100,000 others," he said.

Candidates like Ms. Renshaw, with little or no influence in Annapolis, ended up on the short end of redistricting. But they too plan on making the best of it.

Tony Puca, a Potomac Democrat who lost to Mrs. Byron in 1990, is now in Mrs. Morella's Montgomery County district, where he will now run.

Last year, Mr. Puca won the Montgomery portion of Mrs. Byron's district, an area that has now shifted to Mrs. Morella.

"I won Montgomery County in 1990," he said, "and I expect to win Montgomery County in 1992."

Robert P. Duckworth, an Anne Arundel Republican who lost to Mr. McMillen last year, had already announced his plans to try again next year.

But his Crofton precinct ended up in the new 5th District designed for Mr. Hoyer.

"There's a good chance I will run in the 5th Congressional District," said Mr. Duckworth, noting he will have to change his signs.

4 "I'll X-out the '4th', and write in the '5th.' "

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