Md. Senate approves O’Malley’s redistricting map; House next

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ANNAPOLIS — The House will begin debate Wednesday on Gov. Martin O'Malley’s proposed congressional-redistricting plan, after the Senate easily approved the plan Tuesday.

The Democrat-controlled Senate approved the map Tuesday in a 33-to-13 vote, despite objections from Republicans that the governor’s plan would unfairly redraw GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s 6th District for Democrats’ gain and would decrease the influence of minorities in some districts.

The vote was strictly along party lines, with the exception of state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Prince George’s Democrat, who argued the map would dilute black influence in the state’s two majority-black districts and in Southern Maryland.

“I think we all want to strengthen our party, but why must it always be strengthened at the expense of the very people who have been the party’s backbone?” Mr. Muse said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

The map will likely face fiercer debate in the Democrat-controlled House, but House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, Baltimore Democrat, expects the votes will be there.

“I think the members here recognize that it’s a good map,” he said. “We do our very best to work with every member and accommodate them in every way, but you certainly can’t always please everybody.”

House Democrats from Montgomery County are objecting to Mr. O'Malley’s plan, which would remove Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards‘ 4th District from the county. They say such a move would deprive Montgomery minorities of any foreseeable chance of electing a minority representative.

The map will need 85 votes to pass the 141-member House.

“At this point in time, I cannot support the governor’s plan,” said Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery Democrat. Ms. Gutierrez said she will propose an amendment Wednesday that would restore Miss Edwards‘ presence in the county and that she — and some other Democrats — would vote against the governor’s bill if the amendment is rejected.

Some minority legislators and activists also have criticized the governor’s plan on the grounds it will likely reduce the minority presence within Miss Edwards‘ district and that it fails to take into account the growing minority population in Southern Maryland.

Miss Edwards‘ district now covers sections of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. The proposed map replaces Montgomery with Anne Arundel County.

The congresswoman has spoken out against the proposal, and on Tuesday proposed the alternate map.

The O’Malley map adds the predominantly liberal western half of Montgomery to Mr. Bartlett’s conservative Western Maryland district and removes the more conservative sections of Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick and Harford counties, Republicans say, to keep the 85-year-old congressman from winning an 11th term.

The Maryland congressional delegate is currently composed of six Democrats and two Republicans.

While some Montgomery delegates could oppose the governor’s plan, Delegate Jay Walker, Prince George’s Democrat, said he expects his county’s delegates will be mostly satisfied with the map.

He said he was happy to keep Miss Edwards‘ district in the county, and that the proposed map would allow Prince George’s residents to no longer share representation with areas of Montgomery County with which it lacks common interests.

“I think we wanted [a representative] to be more accountable to Prince George’s County,” he said. “That was our No. 1 objective, and I think we got it done.”

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