- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday approved a new congressional map expected to give Democrats a better shot at winning one of state Republicans’ two congressional seats, clearing a final hurdle for Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s stamp of approval.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the map on Tuesday, just two days into the General Assembly’s special session, held to consider the map submitted by Mr. O’Malley. Critics said it would split districts and slight minority voters to take the Western Maryland district held since 1993 by GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

Senate lawmakers must return to Annapolis on Thursday to approve some technical changes made by the House, then send the map legislation to the governor.

The Democrat-controlled House approved the plan 91-46 after proposals by Republicans and some Montgomery and Prince George’s Democrats to amend the map were rejected handily. Democratic leaders said afterward that the governor’s map was the fairest possible for the state.

“We’ve looked at more maps and more positions, trying to come up with what you think is the fairest possible way,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat. “No matter what you do, there’s always some portion of it that somebody doesn’t like or doesn’t want.”

The map would change Mr. Bartlett’s 6th District by adding the western half of liberal-leaning Montgomery County while eliminating conservative sections of Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick and Harford counties.

The map also would alter Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards‘ 4th District, which covers parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, to instead cover parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

Beyond GOP criticism that the governor’s plan gerrymanders Mr. Bartlett’s district, House Republicans and minority Democrats argued together that the map dilutes the influence of minorities in some districts.

Republicans on Tuesday proposed three alternate maps that would have restored much of Mr. Bartlett’s district and created a third district, made up mostly of minorities, to go with the two existing majority-black districts represented by Miss Edwards and Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.

Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez and Alfred C. Carr Jr., Montgomery Democrats, also co-sponsored an amendment that would have restored much of Miss Edwards‘ presence in Montgomery County. All four proposals were voted down easily by the House.

“In the end, the majority is pushing this, which is in my opinion a very bad map for the citizens of Maryland,” said Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican. “It protects their incumbents and doesn’t look out for the citizens of Maryland. In fact, it allows politicians to select their voters.”

The map was expected to have a slightly tougher time passing the House than the Senate, where Republicans proposed only one amendment and only one Democratic senator — Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Prince George’s Democrat — voted against the plan, which passed 33-13.

The bill needed 85 votes to pass the 141-member House, and passed despite “nay” votes from all 41 House Republicans in attendance. Five Democrats also voted against the map: Delegates Tiffany Alston and Aisha Braveboy, from Prince George’s County; and Delegates Alfred C. Carr Jr., Ana Sol Gutierrez and Luiz Simmons, from Montgomery County.

The Montgomery delegates argued that removing Miss Edwards‘ district would eliminate any chance of the county electing a minority representative in the near future.

Prince George’s legislators contended the map would reduce the voice of minority Democrats in the District suburbs and Southern Maryland and would parcel their votes throughout the state for party gain.

“We should have been given more time to vet this map with people who are going to be directly affected,” Ms. Alston said. “The increase in African-American population warrants the same increase in representation.”

Mr. Busch, who served on a five-member redistricting commission that held hearings this summer throughout the state, said the map was based largely on residents’ wishes. Mr. O’Malley’s map was almost identical to one recommended by the commission.

Mr. Busch said many Western Maryland residents who work in Montgomery County or used to live there asked for a larger portion of the county to be included in the 6th District. He added that changes to Miss Edwards‘ district were made to satisfy Prince George’s residents who asked that they not share a representative with Montgomery County.

State Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola, Montgomery Democrat, has been widely speculated as a Bartlett challenger and has said he is considering a run. The 39-year-old senator’s Germantown home is in Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s district but would be moved into Mr. Bartlett’s under the plan.

The 85-year-old Mr. Bartlett said Wednesday that he still intends to run for re-election next year.

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