Maryland's Redistricting News
"Political map has minor changes." January 10, 2002
Gov. Parris N. Glendening released his state redistricting proposal yesterday, a plan his aides said would improve the chances for minorities to win election to the General Assembly but which some Baltimore lawmakers said failed to address their concerns.
Placing an imprint on the shape of state politics for the next three elections, Glendening endorsed most of the broad concepts proposed last month by an advisory panel he appointed to study redistricting issues.
The governor's plan shifts two state Senate districts from the Baltimore region to the fast-growing Washington suburbs, reflecting population changes between the 1990 and 2000 censuses.
While the governor tinkered with the edges of many districts in the advisory panel's proposal, he did not make the major changes in Baltimore and eastern Baltimore County that some lawmakers had wanted.
Glendening left untouched the overall shape of the 44th District in Baltimore, which would force two incumbent senators to run against each other: Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who is black, and Sen. George W. Della Jr., who is white. The district would be 53 percent African-American.
Mitchell, from a family of civil rights activists and political leaders, has threatened to leave the Democratic Party over the plan.
… Glendening declined to alter a part of the proposal that would divide Dundalk between four districts, causing consternation in eastern Baltimore County.
… In northern Baltimore County, the governor created a subdistrict favorable to a Republican delegate to help the county gain influence in a Senate district that includes much of neighboring Carroll County.
… But in Carroll, three incumbent delegates would run for two seats, a scenario triggered by the change in northern Baltimore County.
… In Anne Arundel County, several communities were reunited that had been split in the original proposal, notably Crofton, Berrywood and Severna Park.
By law, the governor had to submit his redistricting bill yesterday, the first day of the legislative session. It will become law in 45 days unless the General Assembly can agree on changes, which is considered unlikely.
Aides said Glendening listened to the concerns of residents and lawmakers who said their communities would be divided by the advisory panel's plan. But critics said they smelled partisan politics, and said the map overall protects Democrats -- the party in power in Maryland.
In Baltimore, in the 44th District, the governor scrapped a proposal to create three subdistricts for delegates. Under that proposal, three black delegates -- Jeffrey A. Paige, Ruth M. Kirk and Verna L. Jones -- would have been forced to run against each other for one seat, while two white incumbents would have been all but guaranteed re-election.
Now, the five lawmakers would run for three seats. Glendening aides said that means at least one and perhaps two black lawmakers should win election, but black legislators were skeptical.
Because the new 44th District has a sizable white population, African-American lawmakers are concerned that black candidates would be at a disadvantage, said Del. Howard P. Rawlings. "It is going to be very difficult for black incumbents to win," he said.
Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman, said the map preserves as much city influence as possible given its population loss. "If we don't do this, that district goes away totally," Morrill said. "District 44 lost more population than any district in the state. Baltimore City lost more population than any city in the nation."
City delegates plan to send Glendening's map to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to determine if they have grounds for a court challenge. Mitchell said he had not yet seen the map, but that he did not like what he had heard. "It in no way meets the objectives I laid out," he said.
The governor left the blue-collar Dundalk community divided among several districts -- a move that could end the career of Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., one of the legislature's longest-serving members.
While some Baltimore City and county leaders cried foul, others seemed resigned to the changes. "It's unfortunate for the citizens who feel they are split up, and we feel very strongly about these communities that have been split up, but this is part of the process," said Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "We just have to pull together and do our best, because this is the law."
Del. Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the House minority leader from Perry Hall, said eastern Baltimore County residents should be up in arms. "If I were in Dundalk, having been a community who consistently and loyally supported the Democratic Party for decades, I would be stunned, I would be hurt and I would be outraged," he said.
In northern Baltimore County, however, the governor created a county-based subdistrict favorable to Del. A. Wade Kach, a Republican, in a larger Senate district with Carroll County.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening unveiled legislative maps yesterday that would create added political opportunities for minority candidates, but the revised proposal failed to satisfy prominent African American leaders.
The plan, based on the recommendations of a special commission, would increase the number of senators and delegates representing the Washington suburbs and shrink representation in Baltimore, which has experienced a dramatic population decline. It also would add minority districts in Prince George's County.
The governor's redistricting changes -- which would chart the political fortunes of the 188 legislators -- upstaged the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly's 2002 legislative session. Upbeat lawmakers arrived in Annapolis pledging to start work undaunted by the turbulent economic times, the pressure of coming elections and the security tensions prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Lawmakers engaged in all the first-day rituals -- renewing old ties, plotting strategy and backslapping with lobbyists in a packed State House foyer. And while the session's first moments made it clear that redistricting will hang over the legislature as a nagging distraction, members said their primary focus would be a painfully tight budget.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) concluded an hour of optimistic political speeches with a revealing comment on the arduous task at hand, telling members, "From here on, it's downhill."
Still, with Democrats maintaining a firm lock on leadership, lawmakers predicted a streamlined session in the next 90 days that will stumble only over battles for money -- which transcend party politics -- and over a handful of thorny issues that still divide moderate Democrats from liberals, and Baltimore Democrats from those in the Washington suburbs.
Glendening (D), who has already gained passage of the bulk of his legislative agenda, will devote his final session to defending a spending plan that must account for the unexpected loss of an estimated $500 million in revenue. He will probably propose scaling back the final phase of a promised income tax cut -- at a cost of about $100 to the typical Maryland family. Lawmakers who must face voters in November already have pledged to fight the reversal on the tax cut.
Major policy battles are being left to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), who is revving up her campaign for governor. In brief remarks to the House yesterday, she pledged to assert herself on such public safety concerns as drunken driving and criminal sentencing. And in interviews, she hinted she would break from the governor by delving back into the long-controversial debate over the intercounty connector, a proposed highway linking upper Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
House Majority Leader Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore) said she expects members to continue tinkering with the state's unresolved health care concerns, and she predicted that lawmakers would mount an effort to force the state's largest health insurer, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, to maintain its not-for-profit status.
"Of course," she added, "there will also be plenty of attention on those maps."
Glendening did not radically change the redistricting plan proposed by a commission he appointed last month. The map still would increase the number of senators and delegates representing the Washington suburbs, which have had a steady rise in population over the last decade.
Baltimore, which has lost population, would lose representation. That angered African American legislators, including Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV (D-Baltimore), who had said the Maryland Democratic Party "suffers from white supremacy."
He was especially concerned about a Baltimore district in which three black House delegates would have been pitted against one another. Glendening readjusted that in his final plan yesterday: Now, the three black delegates and two white delegates would compete for three seats.
"There will be much more diversity in the Maryland legislature over the next decade," Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said.
The new plan includes a new minority district in Prince George's and a new single-member House district in eastern Prince George's. The new seat means three white Democratic House delegates will have to compete for two seats.
One of them, Del. James W. Hubbard, has been a critic of Glendening's who said the new map was "a shot" at him, meant to punish him for attacking the governor's spending priorities in recent budgets.
"I'm going to run on my record," he said. "I have money in the bank, and the best person will win." He will compete against Dels. Mary A. Conroy and Joan B. Pitkin.
Despite the adjustments, Mitchell said "it's not enough. There was not and still is not adequate minority representation."
The grandson of civil rights leader Clarence Mitchell Jr. said he was still considering bolting the Democratic Party, a prospect that has fueled aggressive efforts by state Republican leaders to forge new ties with Maryland's black community.
Much of the substantial gain the GOP made in 1994 -- when it increased its share of the General Assembly by 22 seats -- has drained away in the past three years. In that time, the GOP has lost four key moderate voices in the Senate alone. Sens. Patrick J. Hogan (Montgomery) and Robert R. Neall (Anne Arundel) changed parties, and Howard County Sens. Martin G. Madden and Christopher J. McCabe left office.
Madden was replaced yesterday by Republican Sandra B. Schrader, of Columbia, and McCabe's seat is expected to go to longtime House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman as soon as next week.
Today, the Republican ranks are down to 47 of 188 total seats, from a high in 1995 of 56.
"You can fixate on the numbers, and it would drive you to drink," said Michael Steele, the state party chairman. "For us, the key is to build coalitions," including the unlikely alliance with the legislature's African American leadership.
U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R-Md.), who has been contemplating a run for governor, said that idea has promise. Without new energy, he said, the session holds little promise for the party, which has not held a majority in Annapolis for more than a century and which would have even more seats imperiled under Glendening's redistricting plan.
"The fact is, we are teetering on the brink of irrelevancy," Ehrlich said in a speech to the legislature's Republican caucus just before opening day. "This is a very important session for you to drag this party, this ideological movement, back from the edge."
Maryland minorities and Republicans are not likely to be satisfied by the last-minute changes Gov. Parris N. Glendening is making to the redistricting plan he'll present to the General Assembly when it convenes tomorrow.
Both groups have accused Mr. Glendening, and the Democrats who helped him draw a new state legislative map, of putting personal interests above fair representation for the 36 percent of Maryland residents who aren't white and the nearly 30 percent of voters registered as Republicans.
Although minorities have been a reliable, and often crucial, constituency for Democrats in Maryland, their votes haven't netted proportionate representation for blacks, Asians or Hispanics in the General Assembly.
According to the 2000 Census, Maryland's white majority stands at 64 percent, down from 70 percent in 1990. But 81 percent of state senators and 78 percent of state delegates are white.
Republicans hold 25 percent of the seats in the House and 28 percent of the seats in the Senate.
Neither group expects much relief under the Democrats' redistricting plan.
Although Mr. Glendening's staff says he is considering complaints raised at a hearing Dec. 21 about splitting up some constituencies, final tweaks are likely to be minor, according to Democratic and Republican leaders.
One change the governor is expected to make would increase chances for two of three black west Baltimore delegates to keep their seats in a Democratic primary that was expected to pit them against each other for one seat.
But that modification would do little to help Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV of Baltimore, who is black and the scion of a family of national and state civil rights leaders. Under the new plan, he would face a Democratic primary fight next fall against Sen. George W. Della Jr., who is white and the son of a former Senate president.
Mr. Mitchell is expected to announce today whether he will leave the Democratic Party in protest. But Mr. Mitchell's spokesman said Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Rogers will make a "last-ditch" plea for him to remain a Democrat at a 10:30 a.m. meeting in Annapolis. The senator won't make a statement until afterward.
Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele ó who is black and has been aggressive in advocating for greater minority representation in the state legislature ó said he believes Mr. Mitchell will take his time and see what the governor offers.
"But I'm very confident that, at the end, he will join us," Mr. Steele said yesterday.
If he does, he would become the first black Republican serving in Maryland's General Assembly since the late Aris T. Allen of Anne Arundel became a senator in 1978.
Mr. Steele said black leaders in the state have been too complacent and that a move by Mr. Mitchell could help minority voters see that they've been taken for granted by Democrats, even in "liberal" suburbs.
"In Montgomery County, 40 percent of the population is minority, and they drew not one minority district," Mr. Steele said.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said it would have been difficult to create a minority district in Montgomery because minorities are not concentrated there. And Mr. Miller said Montgomery activists asked that districts be kept within the county.
Republicans said such requests didn't stop Democratic leaders from crossing other county lines.
Yesterday, Republican Delegates Janet Greenip, David G. Boschert and Robert C. Baldwin sent the governor a letter telling him they had been deluged with complaints from Crofton residents who said they will be disenfranchised by being moved to a district dominated by Prince George's voters.
Unless the lines are changed "an awful lot of people will be voting in Anne Arundel delegation meetings who would not even live in Anne Arundel County," Mrs. Greenip said.
On what was to be decision day about his future as a Democrat, Maryland Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV didn't make a decision.
Angry over a redistricting plan that he said didn't adequately address African American representation in Maryland's General Assembly, Mitchell had declared he might bolt the Democrats and said today, the day before Gov. Parris N. Glendening is to submit the final legislative map for approval by lawmakers, he would announce his future.
So, would he stay in the party? he was asked. Not necessarily, he said. Was he leaving the Democrats? He didn't say that either.
It was a day meant for television cameras, who recorded Mitchell's surprise appearance at a Democratic unity luncheon. Participants at the lunch were eagerly awaiting his decision. In recent days, he had been courted by the state's senior Republicans who were hoping he would join their party.
"At the moment, I'm going to stay in the party," he said after the lunch. But he added, he was spending the next 45 days working to make sure the final redistricting map helped black legislators. If it didn't, Mitchell said, he still might leave and become an Independent or Republican.
"As much as people want to paint me as a radical . . . I've always been willing to work within the process for change," said Mitchell, the grandson of a prominent civil rights leader and the son of a state senator.
Black legislators have expressed concern about the redistricting plan presented to Glendening by a commission he appointed following the last census. It reduces the districts in Baltimore, which has lost population, but also includes a new minority district in Prince George's County.
Glendening has indicated he plans to make some changes to the proposal before submitting it to the legislature tomorrow, including redrawing lines that would have had three incumbent African American House delegates in Baltimore running against each other.
"Had I not done what I did, I don't think these changes would have been done," said Mitchell, who today met with state Democratic chairman Wayne L. Rogers and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's.)
Black legislators welcomed Mitchell's decision to stay put for the time being. "It is much better than the direction he was going in before. I thought he was being hasty," said Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, who said he was reserving judgment on the redistricting plan until seeing the final proposal from Glendening.
Miller said he believed Mitchell would eventually stay a Democrat.
"I cannot imagine in my wildest imagination Sen. Mitchell severing his ties with the Democratic Party," he said. "I can understand that he is frustrated about his district. He might actually have to campaign. He might actually have to knock on doors. He might have to put out poll workers without paying them. But I know he can do it."
State Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV put on hold today his threat to bolt the Democratic Party, saying he will wait until a legislative redistricting plan is completed before deciding his political future.
"I will see what happens," Mitchell told reporters after dropping in on a luncheon sponsored by the Maryland Democratic Party that drew a large crowd of Democratic officials and party activists.
Mitchell said he will work within the Democratic Party during the first 45 days of the session to ensure that minorities are treated fairly in the drawing of new districts for the 188 members of the General Assembly.
Mitchell, a member of one of Maryland's most politically prominent black families, would have to run against a white Democratic incumbent, Sen. George Della, under a plan submitted to the governor by an advisory committee. That plan also would force three incumbent black delegates in Mitchell's current Senate district to run against each other for a single seat in the 2002 elections.
Mitchell has threatened to leave the party, and perhaps become a Republican, unless Gov. Parris Glendening makes changes in the plan to be submitted to the General Assembly tomorrow.
The Baltimore state senator had said he would make an announcement at the luncheon. Today, he said he postponed a decision after conferring with many Democrats, including Maynard Jackson, the former mayor of Atlanta and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute.
Mitchell and other Maryland black Democrats have been pressing the governor to make changes in the plan.
Mitchell said in a written statement that "messages have been relayed to me from the governor's office ... that there may be changes to the redistricting map that favor African Americans ... statewide."
Glendening is required by law to submit a plan for new House and Senate districts tomorrow, the opening day of the 2002 session. The governor indicated he would make changes in the plan prepared by his advisory committee, but would not say today what the changes would be and how they would affect Mitchell.
Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, welcomed Mitchell's decision.
"He was moving a bit hastily...," Branch said. "I hope the changes will increase the percentages (of black voters) to a level where he is not contemplating leaving the Democratic Party."
Republican leaders have been meeting with Mitchell urging him to change his party affiliation.
"We will be working very closely with the senator. I have not given up and will continue to woo him, if you will," said Michael Steele, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.
"His delay may be more helpful in the long run. It will allow us time to lay the groundwork for the future," Steele said.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, said Mitchell should stay in the party and do battle with Della for the seat in the new district, which is 53 percent black.
"I can understand his frustration ... that he might have to get out and work to get elected," Miller said. "He can win. That's what we're asking him to do."
Nothing that Parris N. Glendening will do in his final year as Maryland governor is likely to attract more attention in the General Assembly than the legislative redistricting plan he will submit to lawmakers Wednesday.
The map of new districts the Democratic governor will propose for choosing the state's 188 lawmakers at elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010 will help determine the partisan and racial makeup of the General Assembly for the next 12 years.
The plan also will make or break the political futures of some current legislators, giving it a rare personal significance for the 141 House members and 47 senators.
Republicans have criticized the plan for its treatment of minorities and what Michael Steele, the state party chairman, calls its excessive partisan attack on Republicans.
"I think legal action is likely, not just from the GOP but from other groups and individuals across the state," Mr. Steele said.
The advisory committee's plan also has drawn criticism from some black officials and political activists in Prince George's County who say it would create just four districts where blacks are in the majority and a fifth district with a plurality of black voters.
Despite its importance to legislators, it will be difficult if not impossible for the General Assembly to make any changes in Mr. Glendening's proposed redistricting.
The process for drawing new districts for legislators and the eight members of Congress after the national census every 10 years puts great power in the hands of the governor, especially in the case of legislative districts.
The Senate and House of Delegates have 45 days to adopt a legislative plan of their own. If they don't, Mr. Glendening's proposal becomes law and could be changed only by a successful court challenge.
"The only changes that generally take place are technical and corrective where mistakes were made," said Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, Baltimore Democrat.
"The reality is that there will be so many legislators that will be satisfied with the redistricting proposal that you won't be able to get enough support to make changes."
The legislature has more leeway with congressional districts, where there is no 45-day deadline and where they must pass a bill implementing the plan.
But the governor and his advisory committee again will play the key role, proposing a plan that will, at the least, form the basis for electing the eight members of Congress.
The advisory committee concentrated first on legislative districts because the issue is more complex and the General Assembly operates under the tight deadline.
The committee hopes to get a recommendation to Mr. Glendening soon about congressional districts, but is holding off while the four Democratic incumbent congressmen try to reach a consensus on how the new district lines should be drawn.
Lawmakers who think the General Assembly should adopt its own legislative plan would need strong backing from legislative leaders to have a chance for success.
But House Speaker Casper Taylor, Allegany Democrat, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George's Democrat, played key roles in developing the advisory committee report that will be the basis for Mr. Glendening's plan.
Asked if there was any reasonable chance the General Assembly would reject Mr. Glendening's plan and develop its own, Mr. Taylor replied: "I don't think so."
Regardless of the apparent inevitability of the governor's proposal, legislative redistricting is expected to get a lot of attention during the first 45 days of the session.
Committees in the House and Senate will hold hearings where disgruntled politicians and members of the public can vent their displeasure.
The session also will provide opponents a chance to lay the groundwork for potential legal challenges to the new districts.
The plan released in December by the redistricting advisory committee drew complaints from Republicans and some black officials and political activists who said it did not give equal treatment to minorities.
The strongest complaints came from Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV, a Baltimore Democrat who was placed in a district with a white Democratic incumbent, George Della.
Even though the district had a slight black majority, Mr. Mitchell threatened 11 days ago to bolt the Democratic Party and perhaps become a Republican unless Mr. Glendening came up with a revised plan "which shows a true democratic representation in this state."
Mr. Mitchell said he would reveal his plans tomorrow.
Black lawmakers in Baltimore appeared to be more upset about the future of the three black delegates in Mr. Mitchell's current district, who were included in the same single-member House district and would run against each other if all three sought re-election.
"That's so blatantly flawed," Mr. Rawlings said. "I'm confident the governor will address that problem."
If the governor does not change the portion of the advisory committee's proposal dealing with the three House seats, the plan would be challenged as a violation of the 1965 federal voting rights act, Mr. Rawlings said.
Secretary of State John Willis, chairman of the governor's advisory committee, said Maryland historically ranks near the top nationally in electing minorities to the legislature.
The state has the fifth highest percentage of voting-age blacks among the 50 states, the fifth highest percentage of black senators and the fourth highest percentage of black House members, Mr. Willis said.
"The plan submitted by the black caucus and the [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] had 10 majority African-American districts. Our plan has 10 African-American districts," Mr. Willis said.
"I have no doubt that in 2002, more African-Americans will be elected to the General Assembly than in 1998."
In November 1994, African American voters in Maryland (specifically in Baltimore City and Prince George's County) gave Parris N. Glendening and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend close to 90 percent of their vote for governor and lieutenant governor. In doing so, African Americans were the margin of victory for the Glendening-Townsend ticket over their Republican opponents by close to 6,000 votes. In probably the closest election in Maryland history for governor, African Americans knew that their loyalty would be rewarded by the Democratic leadership, which also controlled the state Senate and the House of Delegates.
In November 1998, after the public rebuke of President Bill Clinton (who was ardently supported by African Americans), Glendening and Townsend were forgiven and once again overwhelmingly supported by the black vote for reelection. Democratic super-majorities remained in both houses of state government after the election of 1998.
In each post-election period, African Americans were rewarded for their support with cabinet and judicial appointments and some support for their legislative agenda. Unfortunately, the selection of agenda items to support traditionally has been led by white Democrats, not by their African American "partners."
This paternalistic relationship has resulted in half-successes: the passage of racial-profiling legislation without penalty provisions; increases in percentage goals for state contracts awarded to minority businesses without proper monitoring; needed but insufficient increases in education funding for African American jurisdictions conditioned upon state takeover and procurement control; needed but woefully inadequate increases in funding for historically black colleges, which were validated by the federal Office of Civil Rights.
My great-grandmother, Lillie Mae Jackson, who was president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP for 35 years and was called "Ma Freedom" by the great Langston Hughes, began a four-generation commitment to public service by the Mitchell family of Baltimore City. She always said, "We are like beggars sittin' on bags of gold," referring to blacks' numerical strength in Maryland and our inability to leverage those voting numbers into public policy influence.
We African Americans have been a mathematical given as far as the Maryland Democratic Party is concerned. Yet now we have been presented with a 2002 statewide redistricting map that represents a gerrymandering effort that would have made Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett or Alabama Gov. George Wallace proud in the late '50s and early '60s.
This shameful map does not reflect the 2000 census-validated increase of African American population in Maryland. There are 1,477,411 African Americans out of a total population of 5,296,486. These numbers represent a 24.16 percent increase in African Americans since the 1990 census, the largest increase of any racial demographic group in the state. Maryland is projected to be the first state on the Eastern Seaboard to become majority minority because of this trend. This map also in no way attempts to create an opportunity for Latino citizens to elect one of their own from Montgomery County, even though the census has recorded an explosion in the Latino population in that county in the past 10 years.
Last spring, Glendening appointed a five-member redistricting commission consisting of the secretary of the state, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House, a Montgomery County councilman (the lone African American) and a Republican. Four Democrats voted against one Republican in favor of a map that decimates the historic African American legislative district in Baltimore City and in no way reflects the 70 percent African American Prince George's County.
My legislative district, the 44th, represents an area of west Baltimore City that in the past century produced Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; the "101st" U.S. senator (from the District), NAACP executive director and U.N. ambassador Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.; Maryland's first black congressman, Parren J. Mitchell; Maryland's first black state senator, former judge Harry Cole; Maryland's first black female attorney, Juanita Jackson Mitchell; the country's first black elected female state senator, Verda Welcome; former congressman and national NAACP President Kweisi Mfume; and current 7th District U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
The redistricting map takes this historic, 80 percent African American district and converts it into a 53 percent African American majority district. It also places the 44th District's three black House of Delegate members in a single-member district, which guarantees that only one will be reelected. At the same time, two other single-member districts are proposed for the 44th District, which will guarantee that whites will represent those areas in the House of Delegates. This proposal is a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- which my grandfather, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped write -- as it relates to "packing" African Americans into a single-member configuration and thereby diminishing their opportunity to enjoy representative democracy.
As a lifelong Democrat, I am urging other African American Democrats not to accept mistreatment from our own party quietly. We are not in a parent-child relationship. We must be respected as men and women within the Democratic Party, or we will do as I am doing. I am meeting with the Republican Party to determine whether my constituents will be better served by grateful, possibly self-serving new friends rather than ungrateful, paternalistic historic friends who treat loyalty with betrayal.
Maryland is drawing new legislative districts this year, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) is proposing to leave Charles County pretty much intact -- except for a sliver north of Waldorf that would be part of a district dominated by Prince George's County.
The fate of that small slice of territory, however, could influence the county commissioner and local General Assembly elections in 2002. Commissioner James M. Jarboe (D-Indian Head) says what happens to that piece of the county, which includes about 9,800 residents, could determine whether he decides to launch a campaign for state delegate in 2002.
Under the existing district boundaries, all of Charles County is included in the 28th District, which is represented by three at-large delegates -- Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins (R), Samuel C. Linton (D) and Van T. Mitchell (D) -- and Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D).
But the redistricting proposal would shift two Charles County voting precincts -- 6-3 and 6-13 -- into the 27th District. That legislative district would also include most of the southern half of Prince George's County, a small portion of southern Anne Arundel County and part of northern Calvert County. It is currently represented by Del. James E. Proctor Jr. (D), Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D) and Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D).
Glendening can still tweak the proposal, which was submitted by a panel that he appointed earlier this year, before submitting it to the General Assembly on Jan. 9. His proposal will automatically become law on the 45th day of the legislative session unless the General Assembly enacts its own plan before the 45-day deadline. Some Republican and African American legislators have criticized the proposal, saying it would make it more difficult for them to get elected.
Jarboe and Linton (D-Charles) both have said redistricting could determine their campaign plans in 2002.
Linton earlier this year hinted that his current term might be his last. He said he was particularly concerned that his district might be altered to include more of the area stretching north to Fort Washington that has been targeted for the statewide Greenprint conservation program -- a land acquisition program instituted by Glendening and opposed by Linton.
"This [current redistricting proposal] wouldn't affect my decision on running," said Linton, who was first elected in 1958. "But I still am not planning to make any announcement until after the end of the legislative session."
Jarboe, however, said the proposal, if enacted, could affect his potential campaign.
"I didn't like it," Jarboe said of the plan to move the two precincts into the 27th district. "I did very well in those two precincts during the last [Board of Commissioners] election, and this probably doesn't help my chances of winning a delegate seat. I'm going to take a good hard look at what I want to do."
Jarboe said he would probably make a decision shortly after a new redistricting plan is finalized.
"I'm not going to wait too long," he said. "I prefer to come out early."
In addition to the incumbents, Gary V. Hodge, former Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland executive director, and Sally Jameson, executive director of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, have said they might run for delegate.
If you live in Baltimore County and suspect that you and your neighbors fared poorly in the state's once-a-decade redistricting process, a respected not-for-profit organization has quantified your pain.
The Citizens Planning and Housing Association of Baltimore has crunched numbers showing that after next year's election, one in five Baltimore County residents could live in a state Senate district represented by an official from Baltimore City or from Howard, Anne Arundel or Carroll counties.
That would be the greatest "disparity," to use the term favored by the housing group, of any jurisdiction in the Baltimore metropolitan region.
"This inequity ... places an unfair burden on Baltimore County and threatens the political effectiveness of the regional districts in the long run," said Alfred W. Barry III, president of the housing association, in written remarks to the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee.
The association is particularly interested in legislative districts that cross jurisdictional lines, Barry says, having launched its Campaign for Regional Solutions five years ago. The group believes that Baltimore will survive and thrive through cooperation with its neighboring counties.
Shared city-county districts were born during the previous redistricting process as a way to preserve political resources in the face of drastic population loss in Baltimore.
The previous redistricting plan created seven shared districts in Baltimore County. In three of those, county residents are a majority; in another three, city residents are the majority. The final district is split roughly evenly between Baltimore and Howard counties.
The new plan -- a proposal from the advisory committee that is being reviewed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- contains 10 shared districts in Baltimore County. County residents would be the minority in seven of the 10, and 20.1 percent of the county's population of 754,300 would live in those districts.
"CPHA supports the concept of interjurisdictional districts and is pleased that this redistricting plan includes an increase in their number in metropolitan Baltimore," Barry wrote. "However, we strongly urge that those districts be crafted in a way that does not raise the concern that some jurisdictions are giving up more of their representation than others for the good of the region as a whole."
Carroll County runs a close second in regional disparity, according to the housing group. There, 19.2 percent of county residents would live in a district dominated by Frederick County. In Harford County, 12.5 percent of the population would be represented by Baltimore County-based officials under the proposal.
Glendening will submit his version of the redistricting map Jan. 9, the first day of the annual legislative session.
If state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV wants to leave the Democratic Party because he's displeased with the governor's preferred redistricting plan, that's his right. We won't be shedding any tears.
It's more likely, though, that his threat of desertion is mere posturing. Calculated grandstanding and dramatic temper tantrums have always been his forte.
But this time his histrionics are unlikely to work.
He may want to see himself as the target of a racially motivated vendetta, but he is among the victims of a far graver political drama: The shifting of legislative power away from the Baltimore region to the more populous Washington suburbs. That's why the city is losing a district, and that's why Mr. Mitchell finds himself fighting for his political life.
That's not to ignore the role of partisan politics in this process.
As the word gerrymandering suggests, redistricting has always been an ugly game in which the powerful flaunt their control. Team players and totems are rewarded, opponents and mavericks punished. Democrats exact their revenge on Republicans, or vice versa.
In Maryland - mostly a one-party state - the Democrats wind up eating their own during redistricting. Senator Mitchell may be on the plate this time because he has constantly antagonized and provoked Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He has been vulnerable for years to the threat that his 44th Legislative District could be merged with Sen. George W. Della Jr.'s 47th, and now the governor has his chance.
But at bottom, the political (or racial) motivations don't matter as much here as Mr. Mitchell would have everyone think. It's hard to argue against reduced representation in the face of the massive population losses Baltimore sustained over the last decade.
If Mr. Mitchell's district didn't disappear, some other city district would. That's democracy - not racism or politics. If he is concerned about the city's representation, he'd be better off rolling up his sleeves to get to work on curbing the population loss than arguing selfishly against the inevitable.
Over the decades, Mitchell family members have come to expect free rides in elections, but there's nothing wrong with hard-fought races against formidable opponents.
In fact, a Mitchell-Della campaign could represent democracy at its best, a lively race with true choices.
If it's petty martyrdom Senator Mitchell wants, he'll likely get it by petulantly bolting to the Republican Party or toward independence.
But if he's really for democracy, he'll stick it out and run for his seat in the new district.
A broad spectrum of African American leaders in Maryland yesterday criticized a redistricting plan that they said would leave blacks with control of too few General Assembly seats.
But the leaders stopped well short of endorsing a black legislator's declaration this week that he will bolt the Democratic Party because of the plan.
Baltimore state Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV's announcement Thursday stunned Democrats and was the most recent evidence of a rift between blacks and the party establishment over redistricting.
But other black leaders said they would withhold judgment until Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) submits a final version of the redistricting plan to the legislature Jan. 9. "You have to wait and see what happens," said Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore), chairman of Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus. "I don't want to do what Senator Mitchell did. I don't want to move too hastily when it could end up being a win for the caucus."
Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he is dissatisfied with aspects of the proposal -- forcing three delegates to fight for a single seat in Baltimore, for example -- and that he is prepared to go to court if changes aren't made.
But Rawlings said he expects Glendening to respond to blacks' concerns. "Beyond that, I don't think that the issues around fairness are egregious enough to leave the Democratic Party," Rawlings said.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) said the proposal "shortchanges Prince Georgians and African Americans, who have always been the backbone of the Democratic Party."
Curry said the five members of the redistricting commission do not represent the views of blacks in Prince George's or Baltimore.
"It's a disgraceful abuse of inside aristocratic power," Curry said of the commission. Referring to Mitchell's decision to leave the Democrats, Curry added, "I can understand his frustration."
Maryland's General Assembly is among the least reflective in the country of the diversity of the people it represents. While 27 percent of the state's voting-age population is black, 21 percent of the delegates and 19 percent of the senators are African American.
Under the commission's proposal, African Americans would have a good chance of increasing their membership from 26 to 27 in the 141-member House of Delegates. In the Senate, where blacks hold nine of 47 seats, they probably would win a new seat in Prince George's but lose Mitchell's seat in Baltimore.
Blacks' frustration with the proposal spilled out at a hearing in Annapolis last week.
Mitchell, who would be forced to run against a white colleague under the realignment, charged that the Democratic Party "suffers from white supremacy."
Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) testified that white Democrats are taking black support for granted. "Many of you would not be in the position you're in without African Americans," Exum said.
Responding to the criticism, Glendening said he would review the proposal. Yesterday, his spokesman, Mike Morrill, suggested that Mitchell's decision to leave the Democrats was premature.
"Given that the governor has not submitted his plan yet and Mitchell is reacting to a proposal, it says a lot more about his competence and ability to serve his district and to work with his colleagues," Morrill said.
"This is a governor who has done more for fairness, justice and inclusion than any other governor in the history of Maryland," Morrill said. "The record speaks for itself, and the relationships speak for themselves."
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), a member of the commission, said he still hopes that Mitchell, the grandson of a prominent civil rights leader and the son of a former state senator, changes his mind and remains with the Democrats. Mitchell has not said whether he would join another party; he's supposed to meet with Republican leaders next week.
"There's no place in the Republican Party for someone who has a family with such a history of civil rights activism," Miller said. "He's a liberal and a progressive. The Democratic Party is what he was born into and where he belongs."
Mitchell's response aside, state Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's) acknowledged that African American politicians have few options in a state in which Democrats dominate.
"I really don't know what we're going to do," Lawlah said. "We have petitioned as a group and as a caucus. The governor has a strong hand in making the map. Hopefully, the governor will see us through."
A prominent African American state lawmaker vowed yesterday to quit the Maryland Democratic Party in protest over a redistricting proposal that he believes would shortchange blacks and force him to run for reelection against a white colleague.
Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV (D-Baltimore) said he will leave the Democratic Party on Jan. 8, a day before the start of the General Assembly session.
Mitchell said he had not decided whether to join another party, although the state's top Republican says he has an appointment with him next week.
"I can have no loyalty to a party that has no loyalty to my constituents and to African Americans," Mitchell said of the Democrats.
Mitchell, the grandson of a civil rights leader, is the most vocal critic among black lawmakers who argue that the Democrat-controlled redistricting commission did not create enough opportunity for African Americans.
Under the proposal, which likely will be amended by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), Baltimore would lose a Senate seat because of declining population. Mitchell's district would be 53 percent black, but it also would include Sen. George W. Della Jr. (D).
Mitchell, appearing at a commission hearing last week in Annapolis, said the Democratic Party "is paternalistic at its core and suffers from white supremacy."
"With friends like these, who needs enemies?" he added.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), a commission member, cautioned yesterday that Mitchell should watch his words and actions "over the next couple of weeks, because I think it's obviously going to have an influence on the rest of his life politically."
"He's obviously very emotional and upset," Taylor said.
Michael Steele, head of the Maryland Republican Party, said he and Mitchell have an appointment Wednesday. "I'm telling him to come on over," Steele said.
State Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV said yesterday that he will withdraw from the Democratic Party because he believes a proposed legislative redistricting map would hurt African-American and minority representation in Maryland.
Mitchell, part of a prominent civil rights family that has influenced several generations of local and national Democratic leaders, said he plans to make his official announcement Jan. 8 at a Democratic Party meeting in Annapolis. He said he has not decided whether he would become a political independent or join the Republican Party.
"I know what I don't want to be," said Mitchell, 39, an African-American senator from West Baltimore's 44th District. "I'm not sure what I want to be."
The announcement occurs a week after a panel appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening released a proposal for redrawing legislative district lines in Maryland. Under the plan, Mitchell would face a potential re-election contest against Sen. George W. Della Jr., also a Democrat, whose 47th District was merged into the 44th.
Political observers - including Mitchell's cousin, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. - have said they believe the governor's panel designed the redistricting plan to hurt Clarence Mitchell's re-election chances.
Mitchell and Glendening have been at odds over several issues, including the senator's decision last year to back a white Republican candidate for the Circuit Court in Baltimore County over a black Democratic incumbent supported by the governor. The Republican candidate won.
Even so, Mitchell's announcement yesterday shocked Democratic leaders, who said they believe he is overreacting to the redistricting proposal and called his decision a mistake. They said they hope he reconsiders and maintains his family's long tradition with the Democratic Party.
"There's no place for him in the Republican Party, absolutely none," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "If he takes the time to listen to some very wise persons, I think he'll rethink his decision. He's young and has a wonderful future ahead of him in the Democratic Party."
But Republican leaders have been attempting to draw Mitchell into their camp over the past several days. Last week, Republican Del. James F. Ports Jr., the newly elected House minority whip, sat at an Annapolis hearing on the redistricting proposal with his arm around Mitchell's shoulders.
Michael S. Steele, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said he will meet with Mitchell next week, probably Wednesday.
"He would absolutely be welcome within the big tent of the Republican Party," said Steele, an African-American. "Blind loyalty and allegiance doesn't get you a lot in a state run by Mike Miller and Parris Glendening. I think the GOP offers a viable alternative."
Sen. Martin G. Madden, the former Senate minority leader, applauded the move.
"Clarence Mitchell has always taken courageous stands in Annapolis on legislation, and he's taking a courageous stand politically this time," said Madden, who is resigning his Howard County seat before the start of the 2002 session.
Mitchell, known as "C-4" among his friends and colleagues, is the grandson of renowned civil rights activist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. and the son of another former state senator, Clarence M. Mitchell III.
Clarence Mitchell Jr. was the director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Washington Bureau during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, a critical period for landmark civil rights legislation.
Mitchell's great-uncle is Parren J. Mitchell, who was Maryland's first African-American congressman.
Miller, who spoke with Clarence Mitchell IV just before his decision was publicized, said Mitchell and his family have over the years proven to be "too progressive for the Republican Party."
"I told him, put his head down, buckle his armor and do what he thinks his grandfather would want him to do," Miller said.
Clarence Mitchell Jr. also was known for his ability to woo and work with Republicans. But Clarence Mitchell IV's decision to withdraw from the Democratic Party left many of his colleagues speechless.
"I have no comment until I talk to him," said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, chairman of the city Senate delegation.
As news of the decision spread, Keiffer Mitchell felt compelled to issue a news release to say that he planned to stay with the Democrats.
"I still believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and therefore I will remain a Democrat, and continue to work to strengthen the Democratic Party," Keiffer Mitchell said.
Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he believes Mitchell should delay his decision to leave the party until after the Governor's Advisory Commission on Redistricting has a chance to consider recommendations made at a hearing last week about the proposed map.
Branch said there are indications that the commission might change the map to increase the African-American population in the proposed 44th District, which could give Mitchell a stronger edge against Della.
Under the current proposal, the 44th District would have an African-American population of 53 percent.
Redistricting brings out the worst of politics, in which the public interest is subsumed entirely by personal and partisan considerations.
Put your finger anywhere on the proposed map of reconstituted Maryland legislative districts, scratch the surface and chances are you'll discover a disturbing story behind the new boundaries. For example:
… It's likely that Democratic Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, an outspoken leader from Baltimore City, will find himself going head-to-head with Democratic Sen. George W. Della Jr., who represents both Baltimore County and the city. It sets up a fratricidal contest between more urban black and suburban white voters.
… The blue-collar community of Dundalk will lose its senator and two delegates, with Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Democrat and a veteran of 39 years in the legislature, finding himself and his district out in the cold.
… In Montgomery County, Del. John A. Hurson, a Democrat and chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee, was moved from District 18 to District 20. It infuriated African-American and Latino leaders, who believe the new slate of four white incumbent Democrats in the 59 percent nonwhite district stifles an opportunity for minority candidates to win.
… The Eastern Shore's two Republican senators, J. Lowell Stoltzfus and Richard F. Colburn, will be pitted against each other even though Republicans in the General Assembly are already marginal and outnumbered nearly 3-1.
It would be easy for those spurned in redistricting to launch broadsides against Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Redistricting Advisory Committee for its proposal. The committee was, after all, responsible for new political lines that will shortchange communities, force lawmakers to run against each other and give and take away representation. Much as they might seem the logical subject of derision, it's not so much the individual players today -- Mr. Glendening, Senate President Thomas V.Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., all Democrats, and others -- as it is the antiquated, ill-suited election system that deserves contempt.
Our winner-take-all elections force lawmakers every 10 years to engage in the ugly process of playing kingmaker. With that understanding, the real criterion for citizen praise or scorn ought to be whether political leaders seek to keep or overhaul the undemocratic system that creates kingmakers in the first place.
With little effort, Maryland could join most of the rest of the democratic world and adopt a proportional representation voting system in which election district lines matter much less. In three-seat House districts, one-fourth of the vote would win a seat. Currently, a quarter of the vote wins no representation. While those votes may send some kind of vague message, they are essentially wasted.
Proportional election methods create more competitive elections, increase voter turnout and reward more people with representation of their choice. Today, if a voting community of interest that represents up to 49 percent of a district casts all its ballots for the same candidates, even that large minority will not receive representation.
Whether it's for the Baltimore City Council or the state legislature, winner-take-all elections suppress minority representation. The current debate over eliminating three-seat City Council districts in favor of single-seat districts -- both of which use the winner-take-all election method -- is the wrong question. Instead, reformers interested in accountability and opening up representation ought to turn to proportional election methods.
A bill in the 2000 General Assembly session would have established a commission to study the benefits of adopting proportional election systems for Maryland's legislature.
Unfortunately, legislators never voted it out of committee, and citizens are paying for it as politics become more consolidated within the hands of a few.
Unless Maryland moves to a proportional system, which it could do even with the new map, the winners and losers of the next decade are largely already decided by a politically powerful elite.
Given the sophisticated computer software of today, it's easy to rig winner-take-all districts. Under proportional representation, no matter where the election lines are drawn, it's likely that the full diversity of the state would become reflected in our so-called "citizen" legislature. That would empower the voters, not the kingmakers.
Eric C. Olson is deputy director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a national nonprofit organization based in Takoma Park.
Like wounded warriors, the politicians whose careers are most imperiled by a legislative redistricting proposal unveiled last week are using every weapon at hand to keep their careers alive.
In some cases, that means forming alliances that would have been improbable only days ago. In other instances, it means turning to hyperbole and outrageous analogies to make their case.
Their efforts reveal a hidden truth about the once-a-decade process: Behind a facade of high-minded talk about respect for natural boundaries and the cohesion of similar communities, redistricting is as much about the interests of politicians and political groups as it is about equitable representation.
At a public hearing on the redistricting plan in Annapolis last week, Del. James F. Ports Jr., the newly elected House minority whip, sat with his arm around the shoulder of state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Baltimore Democrat. Mitchell is angry that his 44th District has been merged with the 47th District represented by fellow Democratic Sen. George W. Della Jr. Mitchell is black and Della is white, and many African-American lawmakers are concerned about a potential loss of black representation.
Mitchell said he had been contacted by state GOP leaders, including party Chairman Michael S. Steele and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a possible candidate for governor. He said he has not ruled out supporting Republican candidates in next year's election.
"I want my constituents to be exposed to everyone who is running," Mitchell said. "Bobby Ehrlich is and has been my friend."
This is not Mitchell's first dance with Republicans. Last year, he raised the ire of Gov. Parris N. Glendening when he backed a Republican candidate, Robert N. Dugan, for a Baltimore County Circuit Court seat.
Others are engaging in similar interparty courtships.
Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. and Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick, both Democrats from Dundalk, spoke Friday at a rally organized by Republicans opposed to the redistricting map. "This is a first for me," said Minnick, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The pair gave a bitter description of the way the proposed political map splits their blue-collar community among four legislative districts.
"They've been raped. That's the best way I can describe it," Minnick said. Added Olszewski: "Dundalk got raped. It's a travesty what happened in the process."
Other politicians fired solo shots as they tried to protect their turf.
A case in point is Democratic Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore. Since 1995, she has represented the 10th District, which includes some western Baltimore neighborhoods and much of western Baltimore County. But with the relocation of increasing numbers of African-Americans into the county, the 10th District would be located entirely within Baltimore County under the new districting map.
That's fine with 10th District Dels. Emmett C. Burns Jr. and Adrienne A.W. Jones, who live in the county. But Nathan-Pulliam lives in Baltimore. If she wants to run again for the House without moving, she will face three incumbent delegates in the 41st District - an unpalatable prospect.
Nathan-Pulliam pulled out all the stops in testimony before the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee. She pointed out that she is the first Caribbean-born General Assembly member in Maryland history (she was born in Trelawny, Jamaica). She said she is also the first African-American nurse to be elected to the state legislature.
"I'm a role model," she said. "I'm fighting this alone. The people are calling my home, saying, 'Who did you tick off?' I feel like I've been ignored by all groups."
While Nathan-Pulliam is angry that she's been excluded from the 10th District, Del. Donald E. Murphy, a white Republican from Catonsville, is equally upset that he was included.
Murphy drew audible gasps from the audience at the redistricting hearing when he said, referring to his outrage: "Now I know where Tonya Harding got the idea to break Nancy Kerrigan's knee."
Murphy opened his remarks at the redistricting hearing by placing a large box of screws on the speaker's table. "They represent the people of Catonsville," Murphy told Glendening and the five-member redistricting panel. "I hope the symbolism is not lost."
The governor must submit a bill Jan. 9 that would change legislative boundaries to reflect the 2000 census. He can either accept or alter the committee's recommendations.
Howard County's influence might grow in Annapolis under a proposed legislative redistricting plan, but one goal remains out of reach - a district for Howard to call its own.
The plan released this week by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee - four Democrats and one Republican - would link Howard to Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Prince George's counties through shared districts while severing a decade-long tie to Montgomery County.
The proposal would bring four Prince George's County legislators from District 21 into Howard County, enlarging the county's delegation from three to four senators, and from eight to 11 delegates. Gov. Parris N. Glendening is to reveal his version of the plan Jan. 9, and if the General Assembly cannot agree on changes within 45 days, it becomes law.
Though the state's redistricting map remains theoretical, Republicans and Democrats have begun jockeying for control of a new South Carroll delegate district that would give the growing area representation it has long sought.
Given that South Carroll has spawned a group of activists who are increasingly discontented with Carroll's all-Republican government, the region seems to be fertile ground for county Democrats.
"That part of the county is experiencing more urban problems, so the Democratic Party probably has more of a chance of competing there," said Donald R. Jansiewicz, a retired political scientist from Carroll Community College. "Certainly, I think that's what the Democrats had in mind when they drew up that new district."
Republicans, however, said they fully expect to win the new district.
"That district doesn't present a great deal of concern to me," said Robert M. Wolfing, chairman of the county's Republican State Central Committee. "Registration down there is majority-Republican, and if you look at the last few elections, people voted Republican. Frankly, I don't anticipate quite the cakewalk for Democrats that some Democrats seem to expect."
In addition to creating a new House district for South Carroll, the legislative map would make South Carroll part of the Howard County-dominated 9th senatorial district. The map would add a large chunk of northern Baltimore County to the 5th senatorial district, which now contains most of Carroll.
The map was drawn by a committee of four Democrats and a Republican appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Although subject to revisions and legal challenges, the boundary lines announced Monday could form the districts used to elect members of the General Assembly - 47 senators and 141 delegates - next year.
The redistricting panel is charged with recommending to Glendening changes to the state's political map to reflect population shifts in the 2000 census. Glendening is expected to make minor revisions before submitting a redistricting bill to the General Assembly on Jan. 9. If the legislature does not alter the governor's map - changes are unlikely because of competing interests and the complexity of the matter - it will become law 45 days after it is submitted.
Members of Carroll's General Assembly delegation have criticized the map, saying it weakens the county's voice. Carroll voters would find themselves sharing representatives with Howard, Frederick and Baltimore counties. Under the current legislative map, most of the county is represented by three delegates and one senator, in a district contained entirely within Carroll County.
Longtime critics of the county's Republican power structure seem thrilled about the possibilities that would be created by the new South Carroll district.
"I think it's great because it finally gives us a shot at more specific representation," said Ross Dangel, spokesman for the Freedom Area Citizens Council, a community group that serves as a liaison between Carroll officials and residents of South Carroll. "We're so tired of being tarred with the same brush that our commissioners and our delegation are tarred with. We've been punished by the state because of these idiots, and we've never been able to do anything about it because, as a county, we elected them."
The precincts that would compose the new district, which would include Eldersburg, Sykesville and Finksburg, voted for Republican George W. Bush last year and for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in her 1998 gubernatorial bid against Glendening.
Many Democrats in the region say they would vote for a Republican, provided that the Republican represented some change from the status quo.
"I'll vote for the person with the best plan," said Jeannie M. Nichols, a member of the Sykesville Town Council and registered Democrat.
The race will be hotly contested and closely watched, said Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty of Manchester: "People will watch to see if it's an indicator of any change in Carroll's political structure. But I think it will just be an indicator of who the people there regard as the best candidate."
Getty said both parties could offer established and respected candidates, making the race something of a toss-up. Representatives of both parties declined to float names of candidates, although they said discussions about who might run have begun.
If South Carroll were to see its political landscape change significantly under the new map, the influx of 32,161 Baltimore County voters into the 5th District probably would not have much effect, political observers said. Those voters, from places such as Sparks, Mount Carmel, Hereford and Jacksonville, represent the most conservative strain in Baltimore County and bear a strong resemblance to Carroll voters, Jansiewicz said.
The move would consolidate the most conservative parts of both counties, creating an archconservative district and taking those voters out of play in more-moderate districts, Jansiewicz said.
For that reason, Republicans said, Sen. Larry E. Haines probably won't face a strong challenge for his seat. Haines said he is "thrilled" with the changes. However, the three Carroll delegates, Nancy R. Stocksdale, Carmen Amedori and Getty, might face competition in Baltimore County.
Republican Cavey, who works in Hampstead and has run for delegate twice in Baltimore County, said he will consider seeking a seat. Other candidates might surface, Wolfing said, calling the large pool of Republicans a strength.
Getty said he would not be surprised to see the final redistricting map include a single-delegate district for northern Baltimore County. That might have the effect of crowding out one of the three Carroll incumbents in the 5th District.
With pressure mounting from African-Americans and Republicans who feel slighted by a state redistricting proposal, Gov. Parris N. Glendening expressed a willingness Friday to make changes that could aid some black Baltimore legislators.
The governor indicated he may alter proposed boundary lines after hearing concerns about a legislative subdistrict in west-central Baltimore in which three incumbent African-American delegates would be forced to run for one seat.
"I think some of the local needs can be accommodated there," the governor said. "But I am going to withhold judgment about commenting on any specifics until after I get an opportunity to meet with a number of other people."
But on a day when political rhetoric ran so hot that Baltimore Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who is black, said his Democratic Party "suffers from a case of white supremacy," Glendening cautioned against major changes to the legislative map proposal. One suggested alteration to the 44th District -- three black incumbents running for two seats -- might preserve only one additional African- American delegate.
"When you have the population shifting that much from one side of the state to the other, candidly, what you are going to end up with is some winners and some losers," Glendening said of the loss of residents in Baltimore and a parallel gain in Washingtonís suburbs.
Those who consider themselves the losers turned out in force Friday in Annapolis for the only scheduled public hearing on a proposal from the Governorís Redistricting Advisory Committee, a group that includes four Democrats among its five members.
Glendening can make changes to the proposal before introducing a bill to the General Assembly on Jan. 9 that will create boundaries for the 188 state legislative seats that will be decided in the 2002 election. Unless the legislature agrees on an alternative, the proposal will become law in 45 days.
The stateís three dozen black lawmakers united in opposition to the map, saying African-Americans make up 27 percent of the stateís voting-age population but arenít sufficiently reflected in legislative districts where a minority candidate would have a good chance of winning.
Glendening and other Democrats could not be elected without a sizable black vote, black caucus members said, warning that they wouldnít be taken for granted. "We play the game so well. We behave. We are loyal," said Sen. Delores G. Kelley of Baltimore County. "And we really should be rewarded with representation."
Del. Salima S. Marriott, chair woman of the Baltimore City House Delegation, said it was "unacceptable to lose African-American representation in a state that is increasingly African-American and a city that is majority African- American."
Administration officials said that, while the number of majority- minority districts is not growing significantly statewide, Hispanic and Asian candidates in Montgomery County should fare well immediately under the plan. And with population changes over the next decade, they said, minority representation in areas now served by white politicians will increase.
Mitchell, the Baltimore senator who could be forced to run in a 53-percent black 44th District against white incumbent Sen. George W. Della Jr., leveled the fiercest charges of the day. He called the Democrat Party "paternalistic at its core" and said Baltimoreís treatment "is something I might expect from Alabama or Mississippi."
Mitchell warned that black voters might form allegiances with Republicans, delivering what he called "a Michael Bloomberg lesson" in next yearís election, a reference to the newly elected New York City mayor who won with significant support from minorities who felt alienated after the Democratic primary.
State Republican leaders opened their arms Friday to disaffected Democrats. At a press conference before the public hearing, GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele continued his lobbying for a redistricting alternative that he said would add perhaps 20 faces of color to the General Assembly.
"The fight has just begun," said Prince Georgeís County Councilwoman Audrey Scott, standing next to a sign that called the redistricting plan "Millerís White Christmas," a reference to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a redistricting committee member.
In a further sign of discontent, the lone Republican member of the redistricting committee, Worcester County Commissioner Louise L. Gulyas, issued a statement Friday calling on the governor to reject the plan and start from scratch. "This six month process has been a sham, and the results are a travesty," Gulyas said. "Back-room politics and the old boy network are both alive and well in Maryland and key decisions were made without the consultation of the full committee."
More outcry came from Dundalk, the blue-collar Baltimore County community that would be divided under a proposal that imperils the career of Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., the General Assemblyís longest-serving member. Stoneís home would be in a district now largely based across the Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County. "I need a boat to get a vote in District 31," read another sign at the GOP press conference.
Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick warned that staunchly Democratic Dundalk, too, might switch allegiances in the next election. "These good citizens of the 7th District are hard-working, blue-collar workers that have endured many abuses and neglect for years," Minnick said. "You can only knock someone so many times before they strike back. If this plan is adopted you will awaken a sleeping giant. I can promise they will strike back come next election."
But Glendening indicated that Dundalk might see little relief through revisions, because there is no way to help the waterfront community without further weakening the influence of Baltimore. "It has been maintained by a number of legislative leaders and local leaders that the shared [city-county] districts are actually stronger for the region, for the city and for the county," the governor said.
State Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV told supporters last night that he intends to run for re-election, despite the redistricting plan being pushed by the governor that he views as illegal and would pose a potentially difficult challenge against another incumbent senator.
"What happened to that map that you saw was a total betrayal of the Democratic Party of the state of Maryland," Mitchell said. "I'm running for re-election from the 44th District whatever it may look like."
Mitchell's remarks were made at his annual holiday party, attended by dozens of supporters, including city police officers and other city and state politicians, at the Baja Beach Club in downtown Baltimore.
The comments were his first in public about the proposed redistricting map since it was released Monday. He said he planned to voice his strong displeasure with the map, signaling that state officials holding a hearing on the plan in Annapolis today are likely to get an earful.
The proposed map, among countless changes statewide, would force the three incumbent delegates from Mitchell's 44th District to compete for one seat in a new, single-member subdistrict.
Mitchell said he believes that packing the three African-American delegates into such a subdistrict is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"I'm very disappointed that the map has packed incumbents in one subdistrict," said Del. Talmadge Branch, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, who attended last night's event. "It's absolutely nowhere near fair."
In addition, the plan could create a matchup between Mitchell and Sen. George W. Della Jr., whose largely white district would be merged with Mitchell's. But Mitchell said he believes that he would have an even chance in a matchup with Della.
Political observers, including Mitchell's cousin, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., have said they believe that the plan was designed to hurt the senator's re-election efforts because he has opposed the governor on various political issues.
"That's just the nature of politics," the councilman said at a news conference this week. The governor's office has denied the allegation, saying that the 44th District lines were drawn on the basis of population, not personal or political relationships.
But the tension between Mitchell and other state leaders has been well publicized.
The Calvert commissioners have decided to wait on designating new county election districts until it's clear whether Maryland legislators plan to develop new rules that would affect the redistricting.
The commissioners' decision came this month, after they received a report from a committee recommending that Calvert continue with three election districts and countywide elections of five county commissioners.
But boundaries for those districts can make a big difference. One plan proposed by some committee members would have three current commissioners running from the same district if they all seek reelection in 2002.
Under current law, they could all be reelected. That's because Calvert's election system designates the two top vote-getters as at-large commissioners. The other three are those with the most votes in each of the three districts -- after the at-large winners are determined. So, if the two at-large commissioners lived in the same election district, that district would be home to three commissioners because one would also be elected based on residency in the district.
But there have been indications that some state legislators would like to have no more than two commissioners elected from any one district, according to Commissioner John Douglas Parran (At Large), who is unaffiliated with a party.
Parran, in moving to delay the vote, maintained that his concern was not about politics, because "we have no idea who will be running" for reelection.
"My main intent is to find out if they intend to change the law," Parran said.
Commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings) noted that he would "not put it back on the agenda until I get four responses" from the local legislative delegation, or if a decision became "time sensitive."
If all board members were to run for reelection and keep their current residences, one proposed map would put Commissioners Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings), Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) and Hale in the same election district -- a move that could prevent one of them from being reelected if the state legislature changes the rules.
Calvert was Maryland's fastest-growing county during the 1990s, with the population increasing by almost half during the decade, according to the Census Bureau. The county's official population in 2000 was 74,563, up 45.1 percent from the 51,372 residents in 1990.
The election district plan approved by the majority of the redistricting committee members calls for boundary lines of District 2 in the middle of the county to shift slightly north and south to accommodate population growth. A minority of those on the panel endorsed a map with a slightly different boundary line in the north. Under either plan, each of the three districts would have roughly 25,000 residents.
"The vast majority of input from our citizens showed that the people of our county are satisfied with the current process of electing county commissioners and that they want to keep the current election process," the majority report said.
The minority backed a map that would result in a more even population distribution in the county's two upper districts.
"Mandatory redistricting that occurs after each census requires that election districts be of comparable size. . . . We looked for those that divided the districts fairly equally and had lines that ran east to west as nearly straight as possible," the minority report said.
Americans generally have no idea who represents them in state legislatures. Not surprisingly, then, the process of ensuring equal representation -- getting the same number of people in each legislative district -- registers less than zero on the political Richter scale.
Nor will anyone be roused to action by sermons about the importance of electoral maps -- how drawing them ensures the incumbent party an opportunity to suffocate the opposition by drawing in supporters and drawing out enemies.
In Maryland, governors control the game. That's meant Democrats for at least a generation. And after each census, the governor can further entrench his party's power by drawing districts that help Democrats stay in office -- or harm Republicans. What we get is a one-party state with a pitiful lack of debate and discussion about policy and direction.
On one level, the new map prepared this year represents an agonizing effort by Democrats to avoid hurting one another.
Since so many legislators are Democrats now, redrawing district lines frequently pits one Dem against another.
For example, two Baltimore Democrats end up in the same district and will, it seems, square off against each other next year.
Republicans, on the other hand, often fare poorly when Democrats can hurt them.
Two Republican senators on the Eastern Shore were put in the same district, meaning one of them will not be in the assembly after next year's election -- or that one of them will have to move into another district. The second option will be chosen by Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, minority leader of the Senate, who says he'll try to avoid the forced fratricide by finding a new house in an adjacent district. Similarly, a Baltimore County Republican saw a big chunk of his voters amputated.
Some African-American Democrats are unhappy with the lines drawn in Baltimore and have threatened a lawsuit. But the courts have been very reluctant to hear such cases, preferring to skirt the political thicket. Given that, these lawsuits may be no more than window dressing -- efforts to show constituents your loyalty even when you know it's futile.
So, if you don't know what district you're living in now and you've been meaning to find out, don't worry. You can start from scratch as soon as the new lines are adopted during the coming legislative session.
Legislators from Baltimore's west side called on other state leaders yesterday to oppose the governor's proposed General Assembly district map, which threatens to eliminate an incumbent senator and two delegates from their community.
"It is so important that we come together as a community," Del. Verna L. Jones, who represents Baltimore's predominantly black 44th District, said at a news conference with other district delegates in front of City Hall.
"We are going to make sure that Baltimore maintains its strength and power in Annapolis," Jones said.
Some political leaders, including Baltimore Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, have threatened a lawsuit over the redistricting plan because it could decrease African-American representation from the city.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow in Annapolis for the public to comment on the redistricting plan before the governor submits a proposal to the General Assembly.
The 44th District faces some of the toughest challenges as a result of the proposed changes. The plan, which was released Monday, would split up neighborhoods now in that district, and force its three incumbent delegates, who are black, to compete against each other for one seat in a new single-member subdistrict.
"I'm the senior delegate, and I'm angry," said Del. Ruth M. Kirk. "For 19 years, I've been down in Annapolis. For us to run against each other, it's unfair."
The plan also would create a potential contest between 44th District incumbent Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV and Sen. George W. Della Jr., whose 47th District would merge into the 44th.
Mitchell did not attend yesterday's news conference, but his cousin, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., said he believed that the governor had the district lines drawn in a way to make it difficult for the senator to be re-elected.
"It's been known throughout Annapolis and in political circles that my cousin is outspoken," the councilman said. "You look at the map. ... You will see that there is some friction."
The state senator and the governor have been at odds over several issues, including a dispute over a candidate for a Baltimore County judgeship last year.
Mitchell did not return phone calls yesterday. He is expected to speak on the issue at his holiday party tonight.
By the numbers
Michael Morrill, a spokesman for the governor, said that the district lines had nothing to do with how the governor feels about Mitchell and that the 44th District was hurt by the city's population decrease.
"It was not drawn because of relationships," Morrill said. "It was drawn because of numbers."