- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

BALTIMORE (AP) State Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV, one of Maryland's most prominent black state lawmakers, yesterday threatened to leave the Democratic Party over his unhappiness with a redistricting plan that would pit him against a white colleague.
Mr. Mitchell said he would leave the Democratic Party on Jan. 8, the day before the 2002 General Assembly session begins. He did not say if he would join another party or become an independent.
"That's not the party I want to be part of," Mr. Mitchell said of the Democrats. "I want to be a part of a party of inclusion, which the Democratic Party professes it is."
The Baltimore lawmaker left open the possibility he would stay in the Democratic Party if "there is a map which shows a true democratic representation in this state."
Mr. Mitchell also said he would travel the state before the legislative session begins to talk with black and Hispanic voters about the "disrespect that was shown to all of these groups by this map."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George's County Democrat who led the redistricting committee, said Mr. Mitchell was still undecided when he spoke with him yesterday.
"I discussed with him whether he wants to tarnish the legacy of his grandfather and his father," Mr. Miller said, referring to civil rights leader Clarence Mitchell Jr. and Clarence Mitchell III. "He'll think closely about the situation. The Republican Party does not have room for a liberal, progressive African American in the state of Maryland."
However, state Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said he plans to meet Wednesday or Thursday with Mr. Mitchell and hopes to "convince him he is more than welcome with open arms into the Republican Party."
Mr. Steele said he and Mr. Mitchell spoke briefly after a redistricting hearing last week in Annapolis.
"He smiled at me and said, 'I need to talk to you,' and I smiled at him and said, 'I need to talk to you,'" said Mr. Steele, who is also black.
"This is why I work as hard as do to try to create an opportunity for people to see the value in a two-party system, particularly the value in a vibrant Republican Party."
At the hearing last week, Mr. Mitchell accused the commission of advocating white supremacy. Mr. Mitchell and other black lawmakers also threatened retaliation against Democrats at the polls in November unless Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, revises the redistricting plan to their satisfaction.
Montgomery County Council member Isiah Leggett, a redistricting-panel member and second vice chairman of the Democratic Party, said he would be "disappointed" if Mr. Mitchell left the party.
"For many of the things he wants to achieve, despite some of the challenges we currently face related to redistricting, those things are best resolved in the Democratic Party," he said.
Under the plan, Mr. Mitchell's district would be 53 percent black, but he would be in the new district along with Democratic Sen. George Della. The plan also takes three black delegates in Mr. Mitchell's current district and puts them into a subdistrict that would elect only one House member.
Mr. Mitchell and other critics have said black voters are the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency and should be rewarded.
The decision to eliminate the Senate district in Baltimore, which has been suffering from a declining population for years, is part of the state's redistricting based on census figures. Prince George's County would gain a majority-black district under the plan.
The plan, prepared by the Governor's Advisory Commission on Redistricting, would be used to choose the 188 members of the Senate and House of Delegates at elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
The governor will submit his final plan next month to the legislature. Mr. Glendening would not commit last week to any proposed revisions, but said he had scheduled about 30 meetings with lawmakers seeking changes.
The governor said he would take their comments and those at last week's hearing into account before making a decision.

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