- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV said yesterday he would not decide whether he will leave the Democratic Party to protest its record in electing minorities until lawmakers decide how the state's legislative districts will be redrawn.
That could happen anytime within the next 45 days. The state Constitution requires Gov. Parris N. Glendening to present his redistricting proposal to the General Assembly today and calls for his plan to take effect Feb. 22 unless legislators approve changes before that date.
Mr. Glendening postponed meetings on everything except the budget yesterday to continue negotiations over legislative district boundaries.
Mr. Mitchell is a black Baltimore Democrat who is being heavily courted by leaders of the state's Republican minority to switch parties. Yesterday, he said any gains in representation that blacks get from the majority Democrats who control redistricting will be won because of his actions.
"Had I not done what I did, I don't think those changes would have been made," Mr. Mitchell said after a brief appearance at a Democratic luncheon where he mingled for an hour with state and national legislators and activists.
However, a spokesman for Mr. Glendening said the Democrat governor and Mr. Mitchell have not met, nor has either sought a meeting, since the senator denounced the redistricting proposal as racist during a public hearing last month.
"The senator chose a path early on that pretty much guaranteed that wouldn't happen," Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said.
The redistricting map made public would pit Mr. Mitchell, scion of a family of civil rights leaders, against Sen. George W. Della Jr., a white Democrat whose father served as Senate president.
Recent changes to the map would make it more likely that two of three delegates now in the same West Baltimore district with Mr. Mitchell would keep their seats. But the changes would not increase Mr. Mitchell's advantage in a district where minorities make up a slight majority.
Yesterday, Mr. Mitchell said his protest has always been about getting "the best for African-Americans statewide."
Still, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat, said he could not imagine that Mr. Mitchell would sever his ties to the Democratic Party and that Mr. Mitchell "could and should be the front-runner" in his re-election race.
"I can understand that he is frustrated that he might have to get out and work to get elected and that he might have to get poll workers without paying them, but he's bright, charismatic, and he can do it," said Mr. Miller, who represents parts of Prince George's, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties.
Mr. Miller said he told Mr. Mitchell the governor could help him if he delivers on some tough votes the governor needs.
"They'll give him a crumb and tell him he's full," said Michael Steele, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, who is also black.
"But he has made it clear he's not of a mind to do that. Actions speak a lot louder than words, and what Ronald Reagan said 50 years ago is true: the Democratic Party has a tendency to leave its people behind."

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