Maryland Democrats’ favorite decennial political bloodsport – redistricting – is about to begin.
Those of us who follow politics in
closely wonder just how greedy Democrats will be in trying to expand their dominance of the state’s congressional delegation. If history is any indication, the answer to that question is, “Very greedy.” Maryland
In 1992, Senate President Mike Miller unveiled his infamous “people’s plan” for redistricting. What it basically did is throw Helen Bentley and Wayne Gilchrest – two of the state’s three GOP representatives – into the same district. Even the Baltimore Sun came out strongly against it, calling the plan “monstrous.” In the end, Bentley played the ace up her sleeve – her friendship with Governor Schaefer – and Gilchrest wound up running against, and defeating, Democratic Rep. Tom McMillan.
Ten years later, state Democrats pushed a two-pronged attack. First, they moved the Eighth District, then represented by moderate Republican Connie Morella, into
’s County. Then they moved the Second District, then represented by Bob Ehrlich, into parts of Prince George Baltimore City, tacking areas of onto the First District. In other words, they created a district which Ehrlich could likely win again if he opted not to run for governor, but which Democrats would likely pick up if he did. In the end, the Democrats’ machinations were successful, as both districts flipped. Harford County
As the latest round of redistricting looms on the horizon, state Republicans hold the same two congressional seats – the First and the Sixth – they did after the 2002 elections. That the Democrats will try to put the squeeze on Republicans again is beyond question. The state’s population has grown and, in terms of voter registration, Democrats have made impressive gains during the past decade, while Republicans steadily lost ground. The only two questions I have: Will the Democrats go for an 8-0 or 7-1 scenario, and, if they choose the latter scenario, who will their immediate target be – Andy Harris or Roscoe Bartlett?
Most of the people I have talked to believe that the Democrats risk destabilizing some of their incumbents if they go after both Bartlett and Harris. I tend to agree. Therefore, I think that they will target one of them for immediate defeat – likely Harris, given his freshman status and the fact that he’s not exactly on Mike Miller’s Christmas card list – while making
’s district a little more Democratic so that, when he steps down, it is a bit more competitive than it is now. Bartlett
As for Harris, I have heard numerous scenarios on how the Democrats might redraw the lines of the First District. One possibility is for the upper shore portion of the district to be spliced to the Sixth along with
. The new First could consist of the lower shore, parts of West Baltimore, and even a sliver of Harford County ’s County. Some of the portions of Eastern and Prince George presently represented by Harris could be absorbed by the Second District. Its current congressman, Dutch Ruppersberger, remains well known and popular in that area. Central Baltimore County
As for the new Sixth, it would span the entire top portion of the state. It seems that the Democrats could remove slices of solidly GOP areas – for example, they could take a portion of Carroll County and tack it onto Rep. Elijah Cumming’s Seventh District without seriously destabilizing him – to make it more competitive in the future. The district’s changing demographics, especially in
, which is emerging as a bedroom community for D. C. commuters, facilitate this new competitiveness as well. Frederick County
Should the Democrats target
Bartlett instead of Harris, they could presumably give Harris all of Harford, moving the First District into Northern Baltimore County, while bringing the Sixth farther south into . Montgomery County
So, I think the Democrats will bow to their avaricious instincts as far as redistricting is concerned. Mitigating that greed will be the party’s six incumbents, who will advocate in favor of a conservative approach to redistricting which preserves if not strengthens the Democratic advantage in each district.
That said, I strongly suspect that one of the participants in this politicized game of musical chairs will find himself without a seat once the music has stopped.