Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Maryland's Congressional Redistricting: Are You Really Surprised?

Many of my fellow bloggers – including Red Maryland, Monoblogue, and Maryland Reporter – have already commented on the recently released congressional redistricting proposal. I’m a bit of a latecomer to the party (although I blogged about redistricting scenarios last January).
Very little surprises me about this map.  I thought they would go for a 7-1 Democrat to Republican scenario, as opposed to the 8-0 nuclear option which would have destabilized Democratic incumbents.
In the end they made Rep. Roscoe Bartlett the target for extinction, not Rep. Andy Harris. Early on I figured Senate President Mike Miller’s well-publicized enmity for Harris made him the logical target. But Bartlett’s age, political passivity, lackluster fundraising, and the geographic ease of extending the Sixth Congressional District into Montgomery County proved decisive.
Further, if I am a Democratic operative and I have to be stuck with one GOP congressman, I’d pick Harris. His uncompromising social and fiscal conservatism makes him an enticing foil. Look to Democrats to caricaturize Harris into the resident, right wing bogeyman. They will make Harris – more ideological than former Rep. Helen Bentley and former Governor Bob Ehrlich and with less crossover appeal – the face of the GOP in Maryland.
I was surprised by the degree to which two of the Democrats' incumbent congressmen – Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings – took one for the team.
To make the “Screw Roscoe” scenario work, Van Hollen absorbs huge chunks of Frederick and Carroll counties. And north central Baltimore County – where I grew up – will be part of Cummings’ Seventh Congressional District. That is a relatively conservative area of Baltimore County, so it will be interesting to see how Cummings’ unvarnished progressivism plays there.
The redistricting plan is an example of power politics in action, pure and simple.
Do I like the plan? Of course not. Am I angry about it? Well, it’s hard to be angry about something that was a foregone conclusion from the very start. It's like going to an Orioles game and being angry when they lose.

Such is the reality of one-party dominance in Maryland.
The proposal is obnoxious, and I hope the state GOP initiates a court challenge against it. Who knows…maybe a judge will recognize it as the blatant gerrymandering it is and strike it down.  I am always hopeful, but rarely optimistic in such instances.

As for the Sixth District seat, I don't think it is a lost cause, at least in 2012. An energetic GOP candidate with fundraising prowess has a fighting chance. Unfortunately, I don't think Rep. Bartlett is that candidate.

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