The proposal to alter the state legislative district lines that will be presented to the Maryland General Assembly this week could mean big changes for legislators in southwest Baltimore County.
The proposed plan introduced in December by Gov. Martin O'Malley's Redistricting Advisory Committee would extend District 12 from the eastern parts of Catonsville and Arbutus into western Columbia.
It would eliminate subdistricts 12A, which was primarily in Baltimore County along with Elkridge and a part of Howard County, and 12B, which was in Howard County. Both subdistricts are represented by state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer.
If the plan is adopted, some Catonsville residents would find themselves in a new district. The plan creates District 44B, which would include a section of what had been District 12A and a portion of District 10 from Baltimore National Pike to Interstate 70.
The northern border of District 10 will also be pushed to include the western parts of District 11 up to the border with Carroll County.
Redistricting is required every 10 years to reflect the most recent census, which in this case was in 2010.
Legislators in the Senate and House can make changes to the proposed map, but if they can't agree within 45 days, the redistricting panel's recommendations become law.
Legislators who represent the southwest portion of Baltimore County said they have concerns about the plan.
Del. James Malone, who has represented District 12A since 1995, said he was shocked when he saw the proposed redistricting lines because they didn't resemble what he had requested when he met with the Redistricting Advisory Committee.
The Arbutus native and resident said he had hoped redistricting would make Catonsville into one district.
Malone said he thought precincts that included polling places at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science and Westowne Elementary School would return to his district and two other precincts north of Baltimore National Pike would be added.
"This is my personal opinion, (but) Catonsville has a lot more in common with an Arbutus because it's an old town," Malone said. "People who grew up in Arbutus have lived there their whole life. It's exactly the same thing with Catonsville.
"I think it was important for the community to keep Catonsville together," he said. "There are so much more in common with those two areas than Woodlawn or Randallstown or Baltimore City."
Del. Steve DeBoy, who has represented District 12A since 2003, shared Malone's disappointment.
"We thought putting the community together was the thing to do," DeBoy said. "I'm disappointed in that.
"It's a very political process," he said. "There's nothing clean and pretty about it."
New territory, new challenges
Kasemeyer said the elimination of subdistricts in his area will mean Dels. DeBoy, Malone and Liz Bobo, a Columbia Democrat who currently represents 12B, will work in unfamiliar areas.
"I support the subdistrict concept (because) the delegates matched the population and political concerns of the subdistricts they represent," Kasemeyer said. "It's a formidable change whereas they'll be running in areas they never have before."
The elimination of the subdistricts gives DeBoy, Malone and Bobo a much larger campaign area should they decide to run for re-election in 2014.
"All three of us are going to have our challenges as we take on new territory," DeBoy told the Howard County Times.
Both DeBoy and Malone expect to run for re-election.
"If the map stays as is, I'm going to have to go further into Ellicott City and Columbia and get to know folks and let them get to know me," DeBoy said. "That's a challenge."
Another challenge will be appealing to voters in western Howard County who traditionally have different political views from those in the southwestern part of Baltimore County.
"We're going to an area that's probably a little more liberal than what we have represented," DeBoy said.
To become more familiar with the people and the area, Malone said he plans to make himself more visible in the areas added to his district.
"Any time I get invited to anything in my district, I'm ecstatic and honored to attend. Usually, if it's not in my district, I don't go," Malone said. "Now that that's going to be my new district I'll be attending all those functions."
DeBoy echoed that sentiment.
"I still represent the folks in 12A," he said. "I'm going to continue to represent them and to vote the way I think assists the people best in this district."
Kasemeyer said the three incumbents will have an advantage over any challengers they may face.
"They'll still have the advantage of being known and developing a record in the areas they already are," Kasemeyer said. "Any new person would have to raise their level of visibility and awareness of wherever they run."