That sentiment may have played a role in Harris' win over Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the last election, but it hasn't been much of a factor elsewhere in the state. In that same election, Cummings beat Republican challenger Frank Mirabile Jr., with 75 percent of the vote. This year, Mirabile is back for a rematch and is convinced the new 7th District provides an opportunity to pick off voters who are enrolled as Democrats but may be willing to switch parties on Election Day.

It would require a lot of switching. The district is home to nearly 327,000 registered Democrats, compared with 78,500 Republicans and 61,500 independents.

"I'm hoping that when the election is over, it takes some of the incentive away from Republicans to have the attitude that it's 'my way or the highway,' " Cummings said when asked how the election will influence fiscal policy in Washington. "Hopefully that will free up some cooperation."

Mirabile said it is Democrats, including Cummings, who are unwilling to compromise.

"Quite honestly, this whole fiscal mess lies squarely on the Democrats and their decision to raise the debt limit," Mirabile said.

The state's meandering 3rd District, which runs from Montgomery County up to central Baltimore County, has been the focus of much of the criticism surrounding the new congressional map. A Philadelphia-based consultant ranked the district last month as the third-least compact in the nation.

Besides having a higher concentration of Democrats, the district is home to another constituency that will likely give an edge to incumbent Rep. John Sarbanes: federal employees. Like others in the delegation, Sarbanes has pushed back against attempts — mainly by Republicans — to trim the federal workforce and reduce its pay.

"I don't think you should be coming back to the federal workforce without having insisted that the highest-income people in this country contribute more to solving this fiscal situation," Sarbanes said. "It's time for others to step up."

His Republican opponent, Eric Knowles, did not respond to a request for comment.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Election guide

For information about Maryland candidates for Congress and state ballot questions, go to baltimoresun.com/electionguide2012