Saturday, July 23, 2011

State Democrats Get Set to Divide and Conquer

MAP 1: At least 59% Obama in each district; both black-majority districts preserved

from the Baltimore Sun
A series of Democrats from Maryland's westernmost corner sent a clear message to legislative map makers at a meeting this afternoon: Give us a chance to take this congressional seat.

"My job is to turn Frederick blue," said Myrna Whitworth, a self-described partisan who testified at the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee in Frederick. She said that the overwhelming number of Republicans packed into the district means state and national parties ignore the area, assuming it would be impossible to win.

Don DeArmon, a former Democratic candidate for Congress, declared: "We have a chance to create competitive districts."

The sentiment is at odds with a view pushed by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, who has repeatly talked about using the redistricting process to pour Democrats into the 1st congressional district on the Eastern Shore. It is held by freshman U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.

The Western Maryland congressional seat is occupied by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Jr., a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. He's held it since 1993 and is wildly popular, taking 61 percent of the vote last year. But at 85 years old and displaying lackluster fundraising, some Democrats in Annapolis privately wonder if he's the easier target.

Bartlett's district now includes eight counties, seven of which stretch along the Mason-Dixon line. It was designed 10 years ago by Gov. Parris Glendening to contain as many GOP voters as possible.

But those testifying Saturday repeatedly argued that Frederick tilts toward Washington, D.C. and suggested lopping off the eastern chunk of the district. That would mean losing Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties. Instead the new district would jut further into northern Montgomery County where they could pick up Democrats.

Several argued that transit lines and commuting patterns flow from Western Maryland to Washington, D.C. They said the population from Fredrick out the Garrett has little in common with Baltimore County, which is more oriented toward Charm City.

But a handful of Republicans, including Sens. David Brinkley and Joe Getty, asked to keep the district mostly the same. They argued that the eight rural counties have more in common than not and should stay together.

The five-member redistricting panel will meet again Monday evening in Prince George's County. The congressional map will have to be approved by the General Assembly, which is set to meet again for special session in October.
Here's a primer from the Harford County "Dagger" on the redistricting process.

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