Candidates for Carroll County redistricting panel submitted

Political lines to be drawn for 5-member commission

Regional

December 30, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners received names yesterday for the committee that will draw new districts for the next commissioners race - a day early but with shorter lists than they had sought.

In the November election, Carroll voters approved a measure to change their Board of Commissioners from three at-large members elected countywide to five members, one from each of five districts.

The commissioners had asked for the lists by today from the three entities to be represented on the committee. They requested three names from the county board of elections, which will have one member, and seven names each from Carroll's Democratic and Republican central committees, which each will have three members.

The names arrived yesterday - but only the Democrats submitted more names than their available slots, said Vivian D. Laxton, county spokeswoman.

The elections board designated its president, Janet Jump.

The Republicans sent only three names, thus selecting Maurice "Ed" Wheatley, a former county planning commission member; former Del. Joseph M. Getty, director of policy for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.; and David R. Peloquin, a financial planner and a former campaign officer for Robin Bartlett Frazier, who was defeated with fellow incumbent Donald I. Dell in the 2002 commissioners race.

The Democrats submitted five nominees, with three to be chosen by the commissioners.

They are: Zoa Barnes, a Westminster lawyer and vice chair of the central committee; James L. McCarron, a Taneytown councilman and mayor pro tem; Thomas McCarron, a Baltimore lawyer and president of the Freedom Area Citizens Council; Phillip R. Miller, a longtime central committee member and former mayor of Manchester; and Martin Radinsky of Eldersburg, a vice president of BB&T bank.

Laura O'Callaghan, chairwoman of the county's Democratic Central Committee, said her party wanted to give the commissioners a choice of nominees from different areas and backgrounds.

"Our goal was to select people that we thought would be very, very good on the committee and also a very diverse group - geographically and professionally," O'Callaghan said. "It's so easy in this county for everything to become homogenous."

"Too often when people get involved in politics, they do so for the interests of themselves or their associates," she said, raising concerns about possible efforts "to create districts to benefit colleagues.

"One drastic consequence could be to divide Westminster, or perhaps pit the commissioners against each other. I just think we need to create reasonable districts ... that follow the natural, existing political boundaries. Different cities and towns should be kept intact," she said.

"I think people are going to have to watch how the districts are drawn closely, because the ramifications could be extraordinary for the county," she said. "Carroll County voters clearly chose moderates in the last election, over the previous commissioners. If voters are not careful, we could return to much more divisive and extreme political candidates in the next election due to gerrymandering of the districts.

"I think it's a shame," she said, that the Republicans named only three people.

C. David Jones, the Republican Central Committee chairman, said its nine members met last week and decided upon three people - "the top vote-getters" - from among nine people who were interested.

"We just voted on three people," he said. "That's all we were required to, by law. ... We did what we were asked."

As for concerns about how the districts will be configured, Jones said, "That will be up to the committee to work out the boundary lines."

Jump, a Gamber resident, has served almost 13 years on the elections board and been its president about four years.

After she received the commissioners' request with its Dec. 30 deadline, Jump asked for and received this month an opinion from the Maryland attorney general's office that the board and central committees did not need to submit extra names.

Jump sees her role as different from those of the central committee members.

"For the election board, I have firmly believed in the two-party system - not exclusively two parties - but celebrating our differences," she said. "I also have believed that the election board needs to be apolitical. Not nonpolitical, obviously, [but] not to let the partisan nature of the election distract us.

"Our job is to serve the people and the residents of Carroll County," she said, and as a committee member her priority will be "to ensure that the intent of the voters is honored."

Because the GOP swept every county race in the last commissioners election, she wondered, "Why would the Republicans gerrymander?"

It was Republican Del. Donald B. Elliott who pushed to expand the board, arguing that the change would mean more innovative solutions to Carroll's growth problems.

The five proposed districts must be approved by the General Assembly under the measure, which was approved by more than 5,000 votes.

Jump was not surprised that the measure passed, but, unlike many others, she did not attribute it solely to growth in South Carroll.

"I think our demographics have changed," she said. "Not just that the population in South Carroll is so much greater than it used to be, but a tide of thought. ... It's not all people who moved in last week."

O'Callaghan predicted - as have other members of both parties - that county voters will be surprised to find in the 2006 commissioner races that their choices have not been expanded to voting for five but narrowed to voting for one, from three under the current system.

Her Republican counterpart, Jones, agreed that the voters' approval of the change was unexpected.

"For me personally, I was a little surprised because I hadn't heard that much talk about it. I know some of our members were against it," he said.

"Now that it's done, it doesn't matter," Jones said.

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