Redistricting battle is heating up State legislators fight to save seats, and maybe careers.

November 29, 1991|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff

As the legislative redistricting process nears a climax, lawmakers in Baltimore and Baltimore County are squabbling like bad neighbors, fighting to save their seats and political careers.

The reality is that eight of the area's 66 incumbents will likely be pushed off their home turf when a new map is drawn. That could mean a quick end to eight political careers in 1994, when the legislature stands for re-election.

"It's like paying a $1,000 bill with a $800 check," suggests Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Balto. Co.

That anxiety has led to a breakdown in the usual collegiality. Lawmakers have stormed out of meetings and kept a paranoid eye on their colleagues to see who is meeting with whom.

In Baltimore County, things hit bottom last Saturday when members of the House delegation met privately to draw a final map of the county's seven districts. By one account, shouting erupted more than once.

"First you wanted to rape us. Now you want to date us," one disaffected member reportedly said, as his colleagues moved in on his turf.

At the center of the storm is the governor's five-member legislative advisory commission. Meeting largely behind closed doors, away from the press and anxious lawmakers, the committee is expected on Monday to produce its map for all 188 legislators.

The plan then goes to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who is expected to modify it. His plan will go to the legislature itself when it convenes in January. If the General Assembly cannot agree on changes within 45 days, Schaefer's map becomes law.

Lawmakers do agree on one thing: A fractious General Assembly will find it nearly impossible to agree on any changes to Schaefer's map. His plan, they assume, will cruise into the law books.

So, legislators are making their individual pleas now, trying to make points with Schaefer and members of the advisory commission.

In Baltimore, for example, lawmakers are promoting shared city-county districts, trumpeting them as the first step to "regional government." But city lawmakers are also thrilled about picking up Democratic precincts just beyond the city bor

ders.

In public, Baltimore County lawmakers reject shared districts, arguing that their interests are not the same as those of city dwellers.

One of the few legislators to display a more pragmatic argument was Del. Richard Rynd, who represents the Pikesville area of Baltimore County.

"By taking the Democrats from Baltimore County and moving them into Baltimore City, you will make Baltimore County into more of a Republican bastion," Rynd told the commission this week. "I'm talking about a pure partisan issue. I hope you understand."

Hollinger, who represents the same area as Rynd, watched the commission take a big chunk of her current northwest district and put it in a new, majority-black district in the Liberty Road corridor.

Hollinger pleaded with the commission this week to keep the rest of her district -- particularly the heavily Jewish area around Pikesville.

"We feel like we've taken enough of a hit," Hollinger says.

Hollinger also covets the Jewish Democratic voters around Owings Mills, many of whom moved there from her current district over the last few years. But moving Hollinger's district northward would pit her against fellow Democrat Sen. Janice Piccinini. Piccinini also likes those Democratic precincts in a county that is becoming more Republican.

"I find it lamentable the Baltimore County delegation was unable to work this out," a somber Piccinini told the redistricting commission this week, only hinting at her "discussions" with Hollinger, which sources said were bruising.

The city is now represented by five white and four black senators. But, according to Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, the Legislative Black Caucus believes the city, with a 60 percent black population, should have five predominantly black districts and three predominantly white ones.

"I don't think the black districts should suffer from what has been traditional white flight from the city," says Del. Curtis S. Anderson, D-City, who is black.

But Anderson has other motives: He plans to run for the Senate in 1994.

A likely opponent is Sen. John A. Pica, who is white and is campaigning to preserve a substantial white population in his northeast Baltimore district. If the city ends up with four predominantly white districts -- including Pica's -- black leaders have threatened to take the whole issue to court.

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