ANNAPOLIS – The battle for political power in Maryland was officially joined Wednesday with Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s release of a new map for legislative district boundaries.
Reaction to the highly anticipated Legislative Redistricting Plan was mixed among members of the Maryland General Assembly.
Glendening’s plan revises the plan drawn by the special panel he appointed last year in 33 of the state’s 47 districts. District 33 in Anne Arundel County and District 23, which includes Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, had the most changes.
“The redistricting commission did a good job,” Glendening said. “We had made some modifications of that, but basically we have a fair, equitable plan that meets all the constitutional obligations that we’re expected to do.”
But not everyone agrees.
Republicans in the General Assembly said the new lines give Democrats the edge.
“Republican districts tended to be the largest, and the Democratic districts are the smallest, and that’s a little more than coincidental,” said Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland GOP.
Democrats already hold much of the state’s political power, with majorities in the House and Senate and control of the governor’s office.
Traditionally Republican districts were clumped together, making them larger and giving them less of an opportunity to gain seats in the Senate and House, he said.
Maryland GOP Chairman Michael Steele, the party’s first black chairman, had proposed a novel approach to drawing legislative district lines – scrapping the current 47 three-member districts for 141 single-member ones. Steele has said the GOP plan would give minorities more of a voice in government by creating at least 38 House districts where black and Hispanic voters would have a majority, according to published reports.
Ellington said Wednesday that the GOP plan would be “a truer cross-section of Maryland and increase minority representation.”
Other Republicans have also questioned the constitutionality of the governor’s map.
The plan violates constitutional mandates that county and Baltimore City lines be observed, said Delegate Robert Flanagan, R-Howard County.
“It carves up the state like a turkey,” he said.
But even Democrats are not satisfied with the new plan.
Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, D-Baltimore City, threatened to bolt the Democratic Party if the panel’s plan had gone through because he said it diminished minority representation. He said Wednesday he would stay put for the time being.
Mitchell, in an interview conducted a few hours before the release of the governor’s map, said he would take a wait-and-see approach. He was unavailable for comment after the revised map was posted on the Internet late Wednesday, but said earlier he would first try to fight offensive portions of the plan with traditional legislative remedies — amendments.
Other Democrats remained supportive of the plan, however.
“We tried to be as fair as possible,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, who helped with the revisions. “It’s the best possible work we could do.”
Miller said both parties suffered from the redistricting.
“It amounts to shared pain,” he said. “Consequently, we have friends now . . . who are not going to be in the Senate or the House anymore.”
Even with their problems with the map, Republicans said that they don’t anticipate putting up much of a fight.
“The chances of getting a map overturned are a long shot,” Flanagan said. “We need to make plans based on the way the map has been drawn recruit and train the best candidates possible (for the next elections).
– 30 – CNS-1-9-02