WASHINGTON TFB — WASHINGTON -- Ending weeks of speculation, an aide to Maryland Rep. Tom McMillen said today the Congressman has decided to run next year in the new 1st District, which encompasses the Eastern Shore and part of Anne Arundel County.
McMillen, a Democrat, would face Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest -- provided both men survive party primary challenges.
McMillen's press secretary, Brad Fitch, said McMillen would not make a formal announcement until after a federal court panel hears a challenge to the district's new boundaries.
"Congressman McMillen feels it would be inappropriate to make any final decision before the redistricting plan is reviewed by a judge," Fitch said. "However . . . if the current lines are kept the way they are, he'll run in the First."
The federal panel had scheduled a hearing today in Baltimore on the challenge brought by Anne Arundel County state legislators. They filed suit after the General Assembly carved up the county in drawing new district boundaries this year.
Anne Arundel comprises the bulk of the current 4th District, which McMillen represents. The current 1st District, represented by Gilchrest, takes in the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.
But next year the 1st District will span Chesapeake Bay, with the majority of the 600,000 population residing on the Shore.
McMillen has balked until now at running on the largely rural Eastern Shore, which has a strong conservative streak and clannish loyalty to Shore-based politicians. McMillen holds himself out as a political moderate but has received low scores from some conservative groups.
McMillen had been considering running in newly drawn districts in Southern Maryland and Prince George's County, but he has been under strong pressure from party officials to take on Gilchrest.
While McMillen was making up his mind, two Democratic state legislators announced plans to run, Dels. John C. Astle of Annapolis and Samuel Q. Johnson 3rd of Wicomico County.
Gilchrest faces Republican opposition from political newcomer Lisa Renshaw, a parking lot owner from Anne Arundel County.
A key McMillen ally, state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Anne Arundel, said he was worried about primary opposition from Johnson or other Shore politicians. He said the Democratic Party must unite behind McMillen, "otherwise no Democrat is going to win."
McMillen is counting on the support of Maryland House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Shore Democratic power who earlier promised to support McMillen but whose loyalties will be tested by Johnson's entrance into the race.