Incumbent senators eye Pikesville turf for 2002

The Political Game

Changes: Redistricting after the 2000 census might leave veteran Democrats Paula C. Hollinger and Barbara A. Hoffman coveting the same heavily Democratic area of Baltimore County.

January 18, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

FOR POLITICIANS, it's never too early to worry about the next election.

But these days, the fretting is more intense than usual, thanks to once-a-decade redistricting.

Incumbent legislators -- and their would-be challengers -- can only make educated guesses as to what their districts are going to look like when the governor and General Assembly draw new legislative maps in 2002.

Those decisions will be based on figures from the 2000 census, which are due to be delivered to the state next spring.

In the meantime, legislators are doing some early jockeying.

One simmering area is Pikesville, where two senators -- both longtime members of the legislature -- seem to be coveting the same heavily Jewish and heavily Democratic precincts.

To the south is Senate powerhouse Barbara A. Hoffman, chairman of the budget committee. Her district takes in much of Northwest Baltimore and parts of Baltimore County, including Ruxton and a small piece of Pikesville.

To the north is Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a 21-year legislative veteran, whose district takes in the bulk of Pikesville, Owings Mills and areas to the north.

Hollinger knows her fast-growing district will have too many voters once the census is concluded. She worries that she may lose some of her most Democratic Pikesville precincts to Hoffman.

That's because Hoffman's reconfigured district will likely have to take in more Baltimore County voters, thanks to population losses in the city.

With both senators possibly eyeing the Pikesville precincts, something's got to give.

"Those are my Democrats," Hollinger says bluntly. "Either they stay [in her district] or there will be tension."

For her part, Hoffman is staying mum.

"I haven't looked at redistricting because we haven't counted the census yet," says Hoffman, a 17-year Senate veteran. "But everybody is thinking about it."

National presidential leaders also ahead in Md., poll shows

The national favorites are leading in the March 7 Maryland presidential primary races, according to a poll released yesterday.

On the Republican side, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has a comfortable lead of 52 to 23 percent over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Maryland resident Alan Keyes is a distant third at 6 percent, according to the poll taken last week by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc. of Annapolis.

The Democratic race is much tighter. Vice President Al Gore holds a 45 to 37 percent lead over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, with 18 percent undecided.

Bradley leads among men and white voters. Gore is winning the battle for women and blacks.

That poses a problem for Bradley. "That's where his strength has been, white men," says pollster Carol Arscott. "Unfortunately, that's not a big component of the Democratic Party electorate in Maryland or around the country."

The poll also showed that Bradley appears to have a better chance of carrying Maryland in November if he wins the Democratic nomination. Gore narrowly defeats Bush and McCain in hypothetical matchups in the state. Bradley enjoys an eight-point lead over Bush and a 10-point lead over McCain, the poll found.

New York Times views Townsend as future president

This just in for the KKT Hyperbole File.

The New York Times weighed in Sunday with breathless comments from some Iowa political figures saying that Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a candidate to become the first female president someday. Townsend was in Iowa to campaign for Gore in anticipation of next Monday's party caucuses.

A few weeks ago, some national political pundits were mentioning Townsend as a possible running mate for Gore.

Closer to home, Townsend appears not to have taken a huge hit from last month's negative publicity and upheaval in the state Department of Juvenile Justice, an agency she oversees.

The Gonzales/Arscott poll found that 62 percent of respondents approve of the job she is doing as lieutenant governor. Twenty-two percent disapprove.

That is better than the rating of her boss. Fifty-six percent approve of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's job performance, while 34 percent disapprove.

Miller gives ex-Republican education subcommittee post

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller wasted little time giving a leadership position in the Democratic hierarchy to Anne Arundel Sen. Robert R. Neall, who was a Republican until switching parties in November.

Miller named Neall last week to head the education subcommittee of the Senate budget committee, a post that will give him a strong say in funding for public schools and colleges.

Some longtime Democrats were miffed that Neall won the coveted leadership post so quickly after changing his affiliation.

Miller also ruffled feathers with other assignments to Neall's subcommittee. Miller initially assigned one other Democrat, Sen. Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County, and two Republicans, meaning the GOP would have had equal voting power. It also meant that the Baltimore area would not have had a vote on the subcommittee.

A day later, Miller shuffled things a bit and replaced a Republican with Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat.

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