Carroll lawmakers expect changes in districts

GOP representatives predict minor alterations in political boundaries

October 29, 2001|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Only a few months from their first gander at the governor's political redistricting plan, Carroll County representatives say they are not expecting catastrophic changes. But one or more of the six Republicans in the county delegation could have their districts altered, members said.

Though Carroll's population growth has been steady in the past 10 years, it hasn't been enough to force major redistricting changes, said Manchester Del. Joseph M. Getty. The county's population grew from 123,000 in 1990 to 151,000 in 2000. According to the state formula, that means Carroll should have four delegates, a senator and share a senator, the same slate it has now.

Maryland's government redraws the state's legislative districts every 10 years so each district has a roughly equal number of voters. The redrawing often represents an opportunity for the party in power to possibly eliminate representatives from the party out of power.

With a few subtle shifts of boundary lines, Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening could force Carroll incumbents to move or run against each other. The process, called packing, could end the careers of one or two Carroll representatives in the Assembly.

In a second scenario, the governor could shift Hampstead and Manchester into a Baltimore County-dominated district, forcing Getty to move or run against three Baltimore County incumbents.

Either shift would be part of an overall plan to create a surplus of GOP incumbents in already-Republican districts, opening seats for Democrats to seek office.

State Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson said he fully expects Democrats to dump his home base, Taylorsville, into Sen. Larry E. Haines' district, but he'll thwart the shift by moving, he said.

"I know the governor can't resist the temptation to tweak the noses of me and Senator Haines because he doesn't like us personally," Ferguson said. "But it won't hurt either of us or the party."

New Windsor Del. Donald B. Elliott, who could be forced into competition with Carroll's three other incumbent Republicans, said he hasn't worried about redistricting.

"The big decisions all get made at the last minute anyway," he said, recalling his redistricting experience 10 years ago. "I look at it this way: I don't think no matter how they draw my district they can make it too liberal that I wouldn't have a chance to win."

Elliott said he will not move and has no plans to leave politics.

Glendening will submit his final redistricting plan Jan. 9, the first day of the 2002 General Assembly session. A five-member advisory committee has held public hearings on redistricting and hashed out details of the plan since spring.

At a hearing in July, Getty asked the committee to divide the county into four subdistricts - each with one delegate - including one for perpetually underrepresented South Carroll. But Getty and his colleagues acknowledged that because they're in the minority party, their wishes will have little bearing on the final product.

For Congress, the state formula says Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's district has too many people. Though most of Carroll probably will remain in Bartlett's district, Getty said, parts could be shifted to the underpopulated districts of Baltimore Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and Benjamin L. Cardin, both Democrats.

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