Governor must walk a fine line

The Political Game

Redistricting: Helping the Democrats get a U.S. House majority isn't easy to map.

January 22, 2002|By David Nitkin and Ivan Penn | David Nitkin and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

THE GOVERNOR has one more map up his sleeve, and he is expected to unroll it this week.

Having finished work on the shape of Maryland's 188 state legislative districts, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his Redistricting Advisory Committee are nearing completion of a plan to redraw boundaries for the state's eight congressional seats.

Glendening's decisions could affect not only this year's governor's race, but which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives during the final two years of President Bush's term.

The Maryland congressional delegation is made up of four Democrats and four Republicans, a split that Glendening complains does not reflect the true political makeup of a state where the GOP is outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 in voter registration.

Glendening, chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, would love to help his party regain a majority in the House. Maryland could be a place, the governor hopes, where Democrats gain one and perhaps two seats.

But what sounds easy in theory is a bit tougher in reality.

That's because three of the four districts held by Democrats are below their ideal population of 662,061, according to 2000 census results. The 7th District, represented by Elijah E. Cummings, must pick up 122,601 residents. The 3rd District, home to incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin, needs to gain 16,618 people. And the 4th District of Prince George's-based Albert R. Wynn must grow by 13,353 bodies.

So Glendening's first task is to make sure those representatives have right-sized districts they can win. After that, he can train his sights on the GOP incumbents.

While Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore and Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland may have little to worry about, Glendening would like to draw Rep. Connie A. Morella of Montgomery County out of her 8th District job. What to do with Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of the 2nd District is more dicey; if his district is chopped, he might be pushed into the governor's race.

Still, in an effort to elect six Democratic congressmen from Maryland, here's what the map may well show: a Baltimore County-based 2nd District that extends into Anne Arundel County, designed to help Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger win election to Congress; and an 8th District that weakens Morella by adding Democratic voters in Prince George's County.

But such a plan would not avoid a bruising 8th District Democratic primary between rising stars Del. Mark K. Shriver and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. Moreover, Morella has proven immune to challenges. And Ehrlich could seek re-election, defeating Ruppersberger.

So despite all the calculations, Maryland could wind up with the same 4-4 split after this year's election, a bitter parting gift for Glendening as he leaves office.

Townsend scores points with King Day speech

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made an impression yesterday, getting a standing ovation from about 1,000 people at the King Day memorial breakfast at Indian Springs Country Club in Silver Spring.

Alluding to King's relationships with her father, Robert F. Kennedy, and uncle, President John F. Kennedy, Townsend spoke of how activists and government leaders can effect changes to benefit minorities.

"When government and activists work together, you can create something great," Townsend said. "The history Dr. King and my family share is part of who I am."

A key constituency for her gubernatorial campaign will be blacks in the state's most populous jurisdiction, Montgomery County. She appeared to have solidified her position with some voters.

"I wasn't sure what she could bring to the breakfast this morning," said Juan Holcomb, 42, of Silver Spring. "I was pleasantly surprised. She definitely made me take notice of her and maybe get a vote."

Crowded 44th may produce more Senate hopefuls

Amid the talk about who might win a redistricting-induced election contest between incumbent state Sens. Clarence M. Mitchell IV and George W. Della Jr., some 44th District delegates are pushing a different scenario.

Del. Verna L. Jones and Del. Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr. are each considering a run for Senate now that five incumbent delegates have been lumped together in a district with three seats.

Mohorovic met with Jones last week to discuss the possibility of one of them running for Senate on a ticket in which the other would run for the House.

With a population that is 53 percent black and 47 percent white, most politicians agree that winning the district will require an integrated ticket. Mitchell, Kirk, Jones and Del. Jeffrey A. Paige are black. Della, Mohorovic and Del. Brian K. McHale are white.

"It's going to take some good, common-sense politics," Mohorovic said.

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