Baffled candidates, orphaned voters struggle with new districts Residents unsure where they vote

October 29, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Tom McMillen's lawn signs are cropping up on fellow Democrat Ben Cardin's turf. Registered voters in Mr. Cardin's district are showing up at rallies for Steny Hoyer.

It isn't pretty, but neither is it the bedlam Anne Arundel's political leaders predicted after last year's congressional redistricting.

Anne Arundel, which had elected its own congressman since 1972, lost the tug of war for congressional seats and was sliced up and parceled out to four districts.

In none of them does the county have a majority, even though it is the state's fifth-largest subdivision. That has raised fears among voters that the county's interests will be forgotten on Capitol Hill.

"We're like orphans," complained Robert Dominick, whose corner of Pasadena was spliced onto the 2nd District, where incumbent Helen D. Bentley faces Democrat Michael Hickey, a Harford County attorney.

"I haven't gotten a single piece of campaign literature. I haven't seen any of the candidates around here. And there's been nothing in the [local] newspapers, I guess because [the district] is predominantly in Baltimore County," he said.

Mr. Dominick's chunk of northeast Anne Arundel, which comprises less than 12 percent of the district, is dramatically overshadowed by Baltimore and Harford counties. And the other three sections of the county are similarly overwhelmed.

The core of the county makes up less than half of the new 1st District, which stretches from Elkton to Ocean City and Annapolis to Curtis Bay.

It also is the only district in which two incumbents are pitted against each other. Mr. McMillen, a three-term Democrat from Crofton, faces Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican.

The residents of northwest Anne Arundel make up about 15 percent of Mr. Cardin's 3rd District, which is dominated by Baltimore and western Baltimore County. Mr. Cardin faces Republican William T. S. Bricker.

Residents in the southern and western half of the county constitute less than 20 percent of the 5th District, which includes large sections of Prince George's County and all of Southern Maryland. Mr. Hoyer, a ranking House Democrat, faces Republican Larry Hogan Jr., an Upper Marlboro Realtor.

"I can't see any good in what happened to Anne Arundel County," said John Gary, state coordinator of the Bush-Quayle campaign and a Millersville resident.

"We're only getting minor attention from the candidates because they are going where the big votes are," Mr. Gary said.

The candidates disagree, protesting that they have made numerous trips this summer and fall scouting the new territory. But they admit the new districts have taken some getting used to.

"Our metabolism is off," said Mr. Gilchrest about campaigning on two shores. "I feel like I've flown around the world three times."

Mr. Hickey agreed. "Logistically, it is a problem in that you have to go across the [Key] Bridge and then figure out where the lines are," he said, referring to the Anne Arundel portion of the 2nd District.

Voters like Mr. Dominick are confused, too. One week before the election, some residents still do not know what district they are in.

The new 2nd and 3rd districts have proven the most baffling, said Nancy Crawford, administrator of the Anne Arundel County Board of Election Supervisors.

"The 1st District takes up so much of the county, [the residents in the 2nd and 3rd districts] all think they are part of it, too," she said.

Neighborhoods in Odenton, Crofton, Severna Park, Pasadena and Brooklyn Park were split among two and even three districts, a fact that may account for the misplaced lawn signs and mix-ups over rallies.

"On this side of the street, you've got McMillen; across the street you've got Cardin," said Ted Sophocleus, county coordinator of the Clinton-Gore campaign.

"This is going to be confusing for 10 years because there is no rhyme or logic to it," said Mr. McMillen, who criticized Gov. William Donald Schaefer and state lawmakers for carving up his old district for "political reasons."

Last fall, county Republican and Democratic leaders described the redistricting plan as "our worst nightmare" and challenged it in a legal fight that ended unsuccessfully in the U.S. Supreme Court.

As the election approaches, many are helping the candidates put the best face on the situation. The candidates say their constituents have much in common, citing concerns over the budget deficit, polluted landfills, the Chesapeake Bay and jobs.

While campaigning on the Western Shore, Mr. Gilchrest has minimized the differences between suburban Anne Arundel and the rural Eastern Shore. And Mr. Hoyer contends four congressmen are better than one.

Mr. Sophocleus worries about what will happen after the election. Will the candidates pay attention then? He wonders what happens to, say, Pasadena residents who want to meet with their representative. Will they have to drive all the way across the Key Bridge?

The county won't know for sure until after Nov. 3.

One thing is certain.

"None of us expects someone from Anne Arundel County to be elected to Congress again until at least 2002," when the districts are redrawn according to the next census, said Laura Green Treffer, chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Republican State Central Committee.

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