Balto. County executive candidate urges redrawing of state's legislative districts Republican Bishop argues county would benefit

October 02, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In his latest volley in the battle for Baltimore County executive, Republican candidate John J. Bishop says state legislative districts should be redrawn so there is no overlap between the city and county -- ending a system in place since the last redistricting, in 1992.

"We ought to put the district where the population is," said Bishop, a former Parkville delegate who fought against the current system during his last term. "A Baltimore County resident should be represented by Baltimore County officials."

But Democratic County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger -- who prides himself on using a unified city-county delegation to get aid from the state -- says he would oppose any such effort in the next statewide redistricting, which will take place after the 2000 census.

"From our experience in Annapolis, it's been to the county's benefit," he said of the current arrangement, citing as a member of the team state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, whose 42nd District is split between the county and city.

In addition to helping the county bring home money for school construction, parkland and neighborhood improvement, he said the system has forged closer ties between the city and county. "I wouldn't want to disrupt the positive relationship."

Redistricting plans are put forward by the governor, not county executives or mayors. But local elected officials can influence the process through their General Assembly delegations.

Currently, three city districts -- the 42nd, 46th and 47th -- protrude into the county. Two county districts -- the 8th and 10th -- include tiny sections of the city.

Two other previously all-Baltimore County districts -- the 6th and 12th -- now spill over into Harford and Howard counties, a result of the redistricting in 1992.

Bishop -- who is fighting a low-budget, uphill campaign against the popular incumbent -- is concerned mainly about the districts shared with the city, saying the shared districts dilute the influence of county residents.

He said, for example, that voters in the Ruxton-Riderwood area can't have much impact on Hoffman's election because her 42nd District covers only a small number of county residents.

"They virtually have no say whatsoever. They're going to have very little impact on Barbara's election," Bishop said.

Most Democrats, including Ruppersberger, strongly disagree with Bishop's criticism of the system, citing Hoffman in particular as a great help to the county in Annapolis.

That's a turnaround from the prevailing local opinion when former Gov. William Donald Schaefer revised the district lines in the wake of the 1990 census, partly to keep the city from losing a senator and three delegates as a result of population decline.

Though county politicians bitterly fought the plan, county Democrats now concede the benefits of shared clout in Annapolis.

"City and county legislators are forced to work together," said Larry Simmons, chairman of the county Democratic State Central Committee, who lives in the new 10th District, which covers a slice of West Baltimore and the Liberty Road corridor in the county.

But Republicans, such as Lutherville Del. Martha S. Klima, agree with Bishop, despite the benefits of the current system.

"My votes totally reflect what is best for Baltimore County," she said.

"If you have a delegate who has 90 percent of their constituents in the city, expect that person to have more allegiances to the city," Klima said.

She also fears that if the next census shows a continued decline in the city's population, those city-based districts will push farther and farther into the county.

"I don't want further erosion. If the city lost more population, that makes me very nervous," she said.

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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