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Political map has minor changes
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.
Sun staff writers Tim Craig and Michael Dresser contributed to this article.