Howard County will soon have three congressional representatives instead of two, assuming the redistricting plan adopted last week by the Maryland General Assembly survives an expected court challenge.
Proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and passed largely along party lines, the plan moves part of District 2 into Howard County. The rest of the county will remain in districts 3 and 7, which have split the county for the past decade.
District 2 will span the eastern border with Anne Arundel County, excluding the top part of Elkridge and bottom part of North Laurel, and cover Savage, Jessup and Hanover. Currently represented by U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Cockeysville Democrat, District 2 would be east of Interstate 95, except for a small portion of Ellicott City and Elkridge south of Route 100 and a small portion of North Laurel north of Route 216.
District 3, currently represented by Towson Democrat John Sarbanes, would cover Fulton and parts of Clarksville, Highland, North Laurel, Scaggsville, east Columbia and Ellicott City.
The boundaries of District 7, currently represented by Baltimore Democrat Elijah Cummings, would remain largely the same as they have been the past 10 years, covering western Howard County, Ellicott City and Columbia, but the district will lose much of the southeastern portion of the county to the new second district and reconfigured third district.
County Executive Ken Ulman praised the new plan.
“The more people who represent Howard County from my perspective, the better because then they each have a stake in working with us, listening to us,” he said
Ulman also said he is “thrilled” to have Ruppersberger represent part of Howard.
“He’s a great friend, and his position in Washington on the intelligence committee makes him an incredibly influential person in terms of the cyber security and the defense company,” Ulman said.
County council chairman Calvin Ball said he, too, has known Ruppersberger for years and was looking forward to the change.
“I would welcome a third voice in the county representing the county in Congress,” he said.
‘Could be worse’
Howard’s state legislators — much like most state legislators — voted for O’Malley’s plan along party lines. After the vote, the county’s Republicans voiced their frustrations.
“Gov. O’Malley got the plan that he wanted, so that they could elect another Democrat to Congress at the expense of the people of Maryland,” state said Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican. He was referring to the Democrats’ intentions to use the redistricting process to unseat longtime District 6 Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, by adding heavily Democratic parts of Montgomery County to his district.
Kittleman also disagreed that three congressional representatives is a good thing for Howard.
“I think that divides us,” he said.
However, Kittleman added: “Anne Arundel has four. It could be worse.”
Del. Gail Bates, also a West Friendship Republican, said she was very disappointed that western Howard County has yet again been grouped with Baltimore City.
“There’s no way you can represent (both) fully, you just can’t do it,” she said. “Not to say Mr. Cummings is a bad man; he is not.”
Bates was critical of the map in general, noting it looks “as if somebody threw paint splotches against a wall. There’s no semblance of continuity or anything.”
She said the map does not recognize the geographic diversity of Maryland, and she is confident it will be challenged in court.
Sen. Jim Robey, an Elkridge Democrat, said the new congressional map will have no negative effect on Howard County.
“The reason we’re going to three (representatives) is because the decision was made to keep the district involving BRAC-related activities, Aberdeen and Ft. Meade and so, in the same congressional district,” he said.
Robey said there will never be a map that makes every legislator happy.
“If every senator was left to his (or her) own device down there, we'd have 47 different maps,” he said.
Congressional redistricting is required every 10 years to take into account shifts in population. Maryland’s new plan will take effect beginning with the primary election in April of next year, unless it is overturned by the courts. Republicans groups, among others, have promised a court challenge.
To view maps of the new districts, go to www.mdp.state.md.us/Redistricting/2010/congDist.shtml.