Maryland Democrats looking to extend their dominance in state politics during this year’s congressional redistricting appear to have settled on a primary target — forcing out 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett from his Western Maryland seat.
Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly next month will redraw congressional districts based on new census numbers, but bootleg maps already show them reworking the 85-year-old congressman’s conservative district to their advantage.
“Democrats know the seat will be open soon enough, so why not now through redistricting?” said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. “According to the redistricting maps circulating now, there’s no way Roscoe Bartlett will win re-election.”
Mr. Bartlett has held the 6th District seat since 1993 and has won each of his past two elections by 20 percentage points, but Democrats say the congressman’s age, low profile and the changing demographics of his district give them a good opportunity to add to their 6-to-2 edge in congressional seats.
Mr. Bartlett has filed for re-election and said Wednesday that he has every intention to run for an 11th term.
“As long as I have good health and the constituents give me their vote, then I’m serving,” he said. “I think that we’ve been effective in serving the constituents in the 6th District, and with their support we’d like to continue.”
Mr. O'Malley will propose a map in coming weeks that will be considered by the assembly during a special session that begins Oct. 17. None of the maps circulating, including the ones seen by Mr. Wasserman, is official.
The governor will base his map on recommendations made by a five-member redistricting committee, which this month wrapped up a series of public hearings throughout the state.
Partisan politics ‘drive everything’
While Mr. O'Malley and state officials have promised a transparent process focused on accurate representation and diversity, redistricting is typically a partisan fight for land — which allows Maryland’s Democratic majority to largely control the process.
Partisan politics “drive everything” in redistricting, said Todd Eberly, the coordinator of public-policy studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “If we were in a state controlled by Republicans, they would do everything they can to do the same thing.”
Mr. Eberly said he is certain that Democratic leaders will go after a seventh congressional seat, and that Mr. Bartlett’s age and the geography of his district make him a more vulnerable target than the state’s other Republican congressman, first-term Rep. Andrew P. Harris, whose 5th District consists largely of the state’s conservative Eastern Shore.
The state’s current map, drawn in 2001, helped Democrats in 2002 to gain two seats by ousting eight-term Republican Rep. Connie Morella in favor of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and allowing Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, to win a seat vacated by gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican.
Mr. Bartlett’s district spans nearly all of the state’s western region — Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties — as well as northern sections of Baltimore and Harford counties.
The new map is not expected to include the largely conservative Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties, and could exclude a section of Frederick County. A larger portion of traditionally Democratic northern Montgomery County would be added.