Howard Stands Its Ground In Redistricting Turf Wars

December 01, 1991|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

While Baltimore County legislators covet Howard County districts to compensate for its own diminished constituency, Howard politicos hopeto keep enough of 10 years' population growth for the county to finally get its own Senate district.

"We're just like a big, juicy roast that the four biggest counties are eyeing, and they each want a piece," said Robert H. Kittleman, R-14B, a delegate who represents Ellicott City, half of Columbia and a piece of eastern Montgomery County.

Tomorrow, a governor's advisory committee is expected to release its redistricting plan for public review. The plan must then be approved by the governor, and 45 days after that, by the legislature.

Howard politicians generally agree that for the first time ever, they have a fighting chance for a district they won't have to share with other counties. Each district must have about 100,000 people in it, and the county, which now shares districts with Montgomery, Carroll, and Prince George's counties, has about 180,000 people.

The state Republican Party has proposed putting all of District 14 into Howard County. Most of District 13 would be in Howard, withthe remainder in the Prince George's County segment of Laurel.

At least a dozen planspresented by Howard politicians would create one Senate district entirely inside the county. Some of the plans propose districts divided for single delegates, to concentrate voting strength among minoritiesor specific neighborhoods.

While countians helped the Republicansdraw up the party's proposed districts statewide, the Republicans are not calling the shots in the Democratic-controlled redistricting.

Chances are Howard will figure in the fight between Baltimore County and city over how much clout the city will wield after the 1994 elections, several members of the Howard delegation said.

"The governor's commission is very likely to rip Howard County apart and includelarge portions of Ellicott City in a Baltimore County district," said Sen. Christopher McCabe, R-14, who has submitted his own plan to the commission to keep Howard County and his constituency together. Elkridge might also be absorbed into a Baltimore County district, he said.

The problem that is likely to spill into Howard County is rooted in Baltimore City, which could lose two of its nine senate districts because of a decline in inner-city population.

To preserve one of the city's senate seats, the governor's five-member legislative advisory commission plans to take precincts from Baltimore County to round out a city-controlled eighth district.

To appease the BaltimoreCounty delegation, the commission is expected to carve a piece from Howard County to round out a Baltimore County-controlled district.

Virginia Thomas, the county's only Democratic delegate, is hedging her bets on her own redistricting plan for her District 13. The plan incorporates "all the same district with the Elkridge area left out because that would be going to Baltimore County."

"That's what we'rehearing" will happen, Thomas said.

However, Michael Deets, the Columbia Council member from Wilde Lake Village who helped the state Republican Party draw its suggested boundaries, said Democratic Baltimore County legislators might not be so quick to gobble up Howard County voters.

Deets noted a comment by Baltimore County Delegate Kenneth H. Masters, who said that he and two other Democratic delegates would be "history" if they gained Howard's Republican-leaning precinctsand lost heavily Democratic districts in their own county.

"It's nice to think that the Democrats in surrounding counties are terrified of having Howard County precincts," Deets said.

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