- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

With the Democrats needing a switch of only six seats to regain control of the U.S. House, this year's Maryland congressional redistricting battles could go a long way toward determining whether Republicans retain their majority. Whatever their personal and political differences, rest assured that Maryland "yellow dog" Democrats like Gov. Parris N. Glendening, House Majority Leader Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller will work together to gerrymander one or two of Maryland's four current Republican House members out of Congress. A map put together by a redistricting committee handpicked by Mr. Glendening twists Maryland districts into a series of contortions in an effort to help current Minority Leader Dick Gephardt become speaker when the House convenes next year.
In Maryland, the biggest loser thus far would appear to be liberal Republican Rep. Connie Morella, who sees her 8th Congressional District expanded into heavily Democratic areas in Montgomery and Prince George's County. Mrs. Morella also lost Republican-leaning sections of northern Montgomery County, which will be added to conservative Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's 6th Congressional District. The beneficiaries of the plan are likely to be a pair of current Democratic members of the General Assembly who are vying for the right to take on Mrs. Morella in November: Delegate Mark Shriver, a cousin of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen.
Another potential loser could be Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 1994 and is mulling a run for governor. The redistricting panel voted to extend the boundaries of a fellow Republican, 1st Congressional District Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, whose district includes the entire Eastern Shore, in an odd finger-shaped pattern into sections of Baltimore County to include Mr. Ehrlich's home. Mr. Ehrlich, who is not barred from running for Congress outside the district he lives in, says that, if he decides to seek re-election to Congress, he would run in the 2nd Congressional District. Although the new 2nd district is designed to be more attractive for a Democrat, such as Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, Mr. Ehrlich, who has won re-election by comfortable margins in a district where voter registration is 2-1 Democratic, can hardly be counted out. If he falls further behind Mrs. Townsend in the polls in the next few months, Mr. Ehrlich could well decide to seek a fifth term in Congress. Republicans aren't the only ones who who are unhappy with the Glendening panel's map. Third Congressional District Rep. Ben Cardin, who was re-elected two years ago with 76 percent of the vote, is complaining that certain Jewish neighborhoods and landmarks were removed from his district, and wants the map reworked to accommodate his concerns. In reality, Mr. Cardin just doesn't like being forced to run in a competitive election.
The Glendening map will hardly effect the overwhelming Democratic majorities in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates. In fact, the only real certainty is that the final map will be crafted to ensure that the Democrats remain in absolute control of the General Assembly for the next 10 years.


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