WASHINGTON -- After weeks of shopping for a political haven, Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, announced yesterday that he would run in the new congressional district that combines a portion of his home turf of Anne Arundel County, a slice of Baltimore and the sprawling Eastern Shore.
The 39-year-old congressman plans on officially kicking off his campaign Wednesday with a three-day 13-stop tour of the district that stretches from Curtis Bay in Baltimore to Crisfield on the southernmost end of the Shore. About 60 percent of the new district -- 343,819 voters -- is located on the Shore, with 240,461 voters in the central portion of Anne Arundel County and 14,292 in South Baltimore.
"I believe I can represent what I see as a Chesapeake Bay region," said the three-term Crofton Democrat. "The 1st District wants someone who's going to be strong in Washington and someone who's independent and not beholden to politicians in the state of Maryland and the federal government."
The congressman said his campaign will focus on the economy and issues that effect the bay, from oil spills to wetlands.
It will be no easy task for Mr. McMillen to win election to the new political subdivision, forged by the state legislature in October as part of its once-a-decade redrawing of congressional lines.
Mr. McMillen was cast into the same district with Eastern Shore freshman Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, who is to kick off his campaign today and who faces Anne Arundel businesswoman Lisa G. Renshaw in the March primary.
"If I thought Tom McMillen could do a better job than me I'd drop out," Mr. Gilchrest said.
The Crofton lawmaker will face at least three Democratic candidates in the primary: state Delegates John Astle of Annapolis and Samuel Q. Johnson III of Salisbury, and James Brown, a Caroline County drug treatment worker. Annapolis Alderman Ellen Moyer also announced that she would run and was expected to bow out if Mr. McMillen entered the 1st District race. Yesterday Ms. Moyer said she may continue her campaign.
Mr. McMillen is a skilled fund-raiser who is expected to outspend all his opponents easily. The congressman, who has a $500,000 war chest, was uncertain how much he would spend on the campaign.
Still, some political observers said Mr. McMillen could face a tough challenge on the Shore from Mr. Johnson, a conservative lawmaker and top vote-getter in the peninsula's most populous area. Others, including supporters of the congressman, said Mr. McMillen hurt his chances by searching for a district and then delaying a decision.
Mr. McMillen considered running against Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, and in the majority-black 4th District, created to satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act. He abandoned a fight against the politically powerful Mr. Hoyer and his consideration of the new 4th District was greeted with anger from black candidates and opposition from the state's Democratic leaders.
During the marathon redistricting fight, members of the Maryland congressional delegation pressed for Mr. McMillen to accept a district that linked portions of Anne Arundel with the Eastern Shore.
But the Crofton congressman tried to tailor for himself a congressional district that incorporated Anne Arundel and Howard County areas and a portion of Baltimore.