Planned districts preserve power

Glendening offers congressional map to help Democrats

GOP lawmaker targeted

January 25, 2002|By David Nitkin and Sarah Koenig | David Nitkin and Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

A draft redistricting map released by Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday twists Maryland's eight congressional districts into bizarre shapes to help more Democrats win election and targets a longtime Montgomery County Republican for defeat.

The map, which preserves three congressional seats in the Baltimore area despite growing population in the Washington suburbs, carves out a new district partially tailored to the political aspirations of Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

However, the district could still prove friendly to Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican deciding between a re-election bid and a run for governor.

FOR THE RECORD - A map in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly showed some of the boundaries proposed by a gubernatorial commission for Maryland's 1st Congressional District. It would extend across the Chesapeake Bay to include a portion of Anne Arundel County. The Sun regrets the error.

Aides say Glendening, chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association, hopes the proposed map will help Democrats gain two seats in Maryland, a shift that could have national repercussions because of the wafer-thin GOP edge in the House of Representatives.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the lone dissenting vote on a five-member panel that crafted the proposal, said the map should have helped fellow Democrats even more.

Party gains won't be as large as the governor thinks, Miller said, insinuating that allies of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend worked to create a seat that was as attractive to Ehrlich as to Ruppersberger in an effort to keep the congressman out of the governor's race.

"Some people feel [Ehrlich] should stay in Congress," Miller said. "It's not a map that goes 6-2. It goes 5-3." Maryland's House seats are now evenly split between parties.

As politicians got their first glimpse of the map, Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore appeared most upset. He said in a prepared statement that he would lobby Glendening for changes because he lost many neighborhoods he has represented in Columbia, Baltimore and Baltimore County.

"Under this draft plan, more than 60 percent of the 3rd District has been changed, by far the highest percentage change of any district in the state," Cardin said. "In fact, it appears that this is the highest percentage change for any incumbent member of Congress in the nation."

Changes could come before the governor submits his final plan to the General Assembly, possibly next week.

In other reconfigurations, driven largely by partisan motives:

Five of the state's eight congressmen would represent parts of Baltimore County, which would be the most fragmented jurisdiction in the state.

Anne Arundel County, where many residents complained of loss of representation a decade ago, would remain split among four districts. Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties would each be divided among three different districts.

The 1st District, represented by Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest, would extend from the Eastern Shore into Harford and Baltimore counties in an odd-shaped finger that hooks west and south to snag Ehrlich's house. The contortion makes the district home to two incumbents. Ehrlich said yesterday if he seeks re-election he would not challenge Gilchrest, meaning he would run in the recast 2nd District. Congressmen don't have to live in the district they represent.

The Western Maryland district that begins in Garrett County would stretch 170 miles along the Pennsylvania border and would include the northern tiers of Baltimore and Harford counties.

Glendening and his redistricting panel have dropped an idea to divide Montgomery County in a way that would prevent Del. Mark K. Shriver, a cousin of Townsend, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen from facing each other in a primary.

Now, Shriver, Van Hollen, former Clinton administration official Ira Shapiro and others could do battle in a costly Democratic primary in hopes of challenging Republican Constance A. Morella. The map packs additional Democratic voters into Morella's 8th District in a clear effort to unseat her.

Morella spokesman Jonathan Dean said the 15-year incumbent was unfazed by proposed changes to her district: "She's not going anywhere."

But the contenders say the new lines also suit them fine. "My whole campaign, from Day One, has been planned that way, that we have one congressional district," said Van Hollen.

His chief rival, Shriver, said he is confident that he could have beaten Morella even if the map stayed as is.

Ehrlich said yesterday that the redistricting proposal was "irrelevant" to his decision about the governor's race, which he says he will make in several weeks. He was most concerned about the division of Baltimore County, he added.

"What an embarrassment," Ehrlich said. "As we know, the Glendening-Townsend years are ending in disaster for the state. It's unfortunate. It's pitiful. It's Parris."

Alan H. Fleischmann, chief of staff for Townsend, said yesterday that she did not express any wishes about the crafting of a favorable seat for Ehrlich to avoid an election battle.

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