ANNAPOLIS – Minority members of the Democratic Party and Republicans have accused Gov. Parris N. Glendening of favoring some incumbent Democratic lawmakers in the redistricting plan released Wednesday.
“You have to reward friends, and some friends have more leverage,” said Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, who is black. “Redistricting is a blood sport. They’re always going to be winners and losers.”
Kelley joins other minority Democrats and members of the GOP in denouncing the revised map.
Minority Democrats say the map doesn’t create enough predominantly minority districts, and Republicans say lines were unfairly drawn to reduce their power.
Under the map, certain groups ended up with the short end of the stick, minorities in particular, Kelley said. The revised maps don’t reflect the level of diversity in the state, she said.
“I think white incumbents have been protected to the detriment of minorities,” she said.
Rewarding incumbents was not the governor’s intention, said Raquel Guillory, Glendening’s spokeswoman. She said the governor tried to be fair in his revised map and points out that some Democrats were hurt as well.
“You’re going to have some people who are happy with it, and some who aren’t, and that’s your given,” Guillory said. “Overall, it’s our constitutional obligation to draw a map that best represents the people of Maryland.”
But Blair Lee, a political commentator, is not convinced.
“This map is artful,” he said. “They’ve made gerrymandering into an art form.”
Montgomery County, is a prime example of having underrepresentation of minorities, said Kelley. Around 35 percent of Montgomery’s population is minority, according to U.S. Census figures, yet the county has just one minority representative in its 27-member delegation — Delegate Kumar Barve, D- Montgomery, who is of Asian-Indian descent.
The way the maps were drawn won’t help with increasing minority representation in Montgomery County, Kelley said.
“Having a single minority representative (in Montgomery County) is not only sad but shameful,” she said.
To the governor’s credit, though, Kelley said Glendening has had a positive track record of helping minorities during his tenure. That is why she is disappointed the map does not do a better job of empowering minority communities, she said.
Another black Democrat upset over the map is Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, D-Baltimore, who has threatened to leave the Democratic Party over it. Mitchell said the revised map is “woefully inadequate and doesn’t come anywhere near meeting the representation of African Americans or Hispanics.”
Mitchell said he may file a lawsuit along with the Baltimore Teachers Union if his concerns aren’t addressed.
Mitchell declined to discuss the governor’s motives for creating the map that he did, saying only, “I just think the map is not reflective of the state of Maryland.”
According to census figures, Maryland has hit 36 percent minority population. Republicans, too, are crying foul over the map. They say they are being unfairly clumped together in traditionally GOP districts, thus reducing their chances of gaining more General Assembly seats.
“Instead of due regard, it was disregard,” said James Ports Jr., R- Baltimore County, of the map.
“If there was a Republican district that they couldn’t win anyway, they took Republicans from surrounding areas, packed them into the same district, which, when you siphon off Republicans from a district, it obviously makes it more Democratic.”
Lee agrees with the GOP’s assessment.
“This was a search-and-destroy mission against Republicans,” Lee said.
Lee cites District 3 as an example. There, the lines were redrawn so that the incumbent, Sen. Alexander Mooney, R-Frederick, lost most of the predominantly Republican population that elected him.
Mooney is a staunch conservative who has bumped heads with the governor on several issues.
“The only person still in his district is him,” Lee said. “They changed his district almost entirely. They targeted him for extinction.”
And other parts of the revised map are laced with favoritism, Lee said.
The stretching of some Baltimore City district lines to include some Baltimore County suburbs was purely a political maneuver, Lee said. Essentially, some of the suburbs were annexed for political purposes, he said. Only three of the Baltimore districts are contained entirely within the city.
With all of the dissatisfaction with the map between two groups not often known to be on the same side, could a cooperative effort be in the future?
“I think we’ll be reaching across the aisle,” Ports said.
However, the possibility is still shaky at best. “I’ll see what their issues are,” Mitchell said. “We’re clear on our issues. But our issue is not the empowerment of Republicans on this map.” – 30 – CNS-1-11-02