- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has issued his version of the state’s congressional redistricting map, making only minor changes to the one submitted to him earlier this month by his five-person advisory committee.

“After serious consideration and a review of all input from citizens across the state and discussions with members of our congressional delegation and the General Assembly, I will be submitting a proposed map, substantially similar to the map developed by the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, for consideration during the start of [the Assembly’s] special session on Monday,” Mr. O'Malley said Saturday.

The map keeps two black-majority districts and targets a GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, seeking an 11th term in the 6th congressional district, in Western Maryland.

“I’d like to thank the committee for its hard work throughout this process, as well as the citizens who have submitted their comments and suggestions and all of the members of the General Assembly,” said Mr. O'Malley, Democrat. “I am looking forward to working with our legislature next week as we ensure that every citizen is fairly and accurately represented.”

The map restores some of the current 6th district and some of the 8th district. But Joseph Bryce, O'Malley’s chief legislative officer, described the changes as marginal.

“If you held them up side-by-side, I doubt you would be able to pick the changes,” he told reporters after a meeting of the Black Legislative Caucus, which met to discuss the map.

The changes are expected to make the 6th district more competitive for a Democrat. The 8th district is represented by Democratic Rep. Christopher Van Hollen. Democrats hold a 6-2 advantage over Republicans in Maryland’s House delegation.

Democrat Rep. Donna Edward, 4th congressional district, went public last week over concerns that efforts by the Democratic governor and Democrat-controlled Assembly to take Mr. Bartlett’s seat by splitting other districts has weakened the minority votes. She was joined by Democratic lawmakers in Montgomery County who said expressed similar concerns.

The advisory panel also recommended significant changes to Ms. Edward’s district. The change eliminates Montgomery County from the congresswoman’s district. Ms. Edwards is one of two black representatives in Maryland’s congressional delegation. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, is the other.

Critics of the advisory panel’s recommended map also have argued that the growth of Maryland’s minority population over the past decade means that the state should have three majority-minority congressional districts. But that could have meant significant changes to the districts of Democratic incumbents such as U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a member of the House Democratic leadership.

Ms. Edwards discussed her concerns before the state’s Legislative Black Caucus in Annapolis.
The caucus delayed a vote on whether to support the plan until Monday.

“I think the ultimate goal is just to make sure there’s African-American representation, and I think that this map addresses that, but there are some concerns about certain areas,” said state Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat who is the caucus chairwoman. She added that she wasn’t taking a position on the map yet.

Maryland’s congressional districts are being redrawn to conform with population changes in the 2010 census. Supporters of the changes say the new map reflects a demographic shift along the Interstate 270 corridor.
The special session that begins Monday is not expected to last more than several days.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.