By Vandana Sinha
WASHINGTON – The white Republican who lost badly to Democratic Rep. Al Wynn last year said he will file a lawsuit claiming that the largely black district is unconstitutionally based on race.
John Kimble, who plans to challenge the black incumbent again next year, said the 4th Congressional District is “unwinnable” for a white candidate because it is 58 percent black.
“This is discrimination. My rights were essentially violated because I had no chance at all of winning,” Kimble said in an interview Thursday.
Kimble, who lost to Wynn 85 percent to 15 percent last November, said the suit also will ask for $267,200 in damages – the amount of money Kimble would have earned from two years as a congressman.
He said he plans to file the federal suit within two weeks.
The Maryland General Assembly created the district in 1990 specifically as a black majority district.
But Kimble cited recent Supreme Court cases that declared minority districts in Virginia and Georgia discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Assistant Maryland Attorney General Robert Zarnoch called Kimble’s chances of winning the suit “highly unlikely.”
“The fact that it’s a majority-minority district doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make it unconstitutional,” Zarnoch said. “The district would have to be deliberately constructed on the basis of race without regard to the traditional criteria governing redistricting.”
Zarnoch noted that the Legislature’s redistricting has already been upheld by a federal court when it rejected a 1991 challenge from the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee.
National GOP officials praised Kimble’s plan for a lawsuit.
“I think that’s probably good,” said Paul Wieland, comptroller of the campaign operations division of the Republican National Committee.
Wieland said majority-minority districts have been “falling like flies” before the Supreme Court.
But local Republican officials quickly distanced themselves from Kimble, perhaps best remembered for offering to pose nude in Playgirl for $1 million to help his 1996 campaign.
Michael Steele, chairman of the Prince George’s County Republican Party, said he does not consider the boundaries a significant issue, claiming that Kimble lost because of his “antics” and “racist” statements about denying entry and benefits to immigrants.
“All he has to do is open his mouth and he’ll know why he didn’t make it in P.G. County,” Steele said.
He said the block-shaped district, which includes most of Prince George’s County and a small sliver of Montgomery County, is logical, unlike the meandering, bizarre-shaped districts that have been deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
“The district is well within its guidelines,” Steele said.
Some Republicans said Kimble’s chances of winning next year’s congressional race are remote, regardless of district lines.
“With him and that district, he wouldn’t be one who comes to my mind as a strong candidate” to unseat Wynn, said Richard LaSota, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
But Kimble said he is determined to fight the majority- minority district up to the Supreme Court to win the 1998 election, describing it as a battle of opportunity, not of race.
“With the racial solidarity there, I don’t even think anyone could beat (Wynn) unless it is redistricted,” said the owner of a Silver Spring paging company. “I fully expect to win this.”