Speaker pursues remap solution

Cardin seeks help in restoring parts of his 3rd District

No `wholesale changes'

January 26, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

A day after the governor's office released a proposed congressional redistricting map, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.'s office worked to come up with another drawing that would quell the distress of U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

Cardin spent much of yesterday in closed-door meetings in Annapolis, discussing a wish list that would restore areas he believes are key to his 3rd District - including a precinct that contains a Jewish community center.

A former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates of whom lawmakers speak fondly, Cardin said Thursday he had "grave concerns" about the proposed map, on which he loses many neighborhoods he has represented in Columbia, Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Cardin's district was the only one that lawmakers talked about redrawing. Otherwise, leading Democrats said yesterday the map was likely to remain more or less as is, although tweaks to other borders are still possible.

A final version will be introduced in the General Assembly as a bill, and so could be amended.

"I think you'll see things like precinct changes, more than any wholesale changes," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who was the lone dissenting voter on the commission that came up with the proposal. He favors a map that would add a congressional seat based in Montgomery County.

Sen. Ida G. Ruben, a Montgomery Democrat who is co-chairwoman of a Senate committee that will hold a hearing on the map, said although some of her Montgomery colleagues probably would have preferred Miller's plan, there appeared to be no serious effort under way to undo the current proposal.

Even Baltimore County lawmakers said they generally support the map - which splinters their county among five congressional districts, up from three.

"No, it doesn't worry me," said Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, who expressed a more-the-merrier sentiment echoed by several other Democrats, including County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "We will have five people to talk with about county issues in the federal Congress," Bromwell said.

Although the map looks "pretty ugly" to Del. Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, he, too, will probably vote for it. "That's the grim reality," he said. "It's more about personalities than it is about geography or constituencies."

The map preserves three congressional seats in the Baltimore area despite population growth in the Washington suburbs. It also seeks to add one or two Democrats to Maryland's eight-member U.S. House delegation, now evenly split between political parties.

The proposal carves out a new 2nd District designed to appeal to a Democrat - but which would contain enough Republican voters to possibly entice Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to forgo a gubernatorial run and instead try for re-election.

The lines of legislative and congressional districts are redrawn with each 10-year census. The rules governing congressional redistricting are especially unforgiving on one point: Each of the state's eight districts must contain equal populations of 662,061. The redistricting commission allowed itself a margin of only two people to make sure the result wouldn't be challenged in court.

That means any changes sought by Cardin would affect almost every other district.

Cardin, who is Jewish, could prevail in two spots involving precincts with Jewish voters that ended up just outside his district. One is in Northwest Baltimore, and the other is on the edge of Randallstown.

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