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Rep. Edwards proposes map, faces criticism

Rep. Donna F. Edwards, the Prince George's County Democrat who has led opposition to Gov. Martin O'Malley's congressional redistricting proposal, said Monday she has proposed her own map to address minority voting concerns, but the proposal came under fire from some members of the General Assembly.

A difficult-to-view inset of the map posted on her campaign website appears to show that her proposal would bring Edwards' district into eastern Montgomery County so that she would represent minority communities there.

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Edwards' staff did not respond to requests for a statewide version of the map.

"It is possible to meet both our concerns of minority representation interests in Montgomery County and also to satisfy whatever broader political" goals are involved, Edwards said, referring to Democratic efforts to make the Western Maryland district represented by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett more competitive.

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"We will not have a perfect map by any stretch but we should come as close to perfect in representing the interests of all communities throughout our great state of Maryland as we can."

Several members of a joint committee considering various redistricting proposals Monday said that they had not received a copy of Edwards' proposal. Some Democratic lawmakers questioned the proposal, noting that it would carve Howard County into four congressional districts while also reducing the share of minorities in other congressional districts.

"You're giving us four congressmen, I don't know what advantage we get – I don't know what advantage minorities get," argued Del. Sheila Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat.

"I appreciate your comments," Edwards responded. "I'll let your fellow elected leaders who represent minority communities, particularly in your district, speak to those concerns."

The exchange was part of a broader public hearing on redistricting Monday. The hearing began with Jeanne D. Hitchcock, a longtime aide to O'Malley who chaired the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee, expressing confidence that the proposal would stand up to threatened federal court challenges under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"Does this protect minority voting rights?" Hitchcock asked rhetorically. "Yes."

Montgomery County Delegates Alfred Carr and Ana Sol Gutierrez will introduce Edwards' map as an amendment in the House -- possibly as early as Tuesday.

Edwards called O'Malley's map "deeply flawed" in regards to minority voting rights, but her testimony came on the same day that the executives of Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- Rushern L. Baker, III and Isiah "Ike" Leggett, respectively -- expressed their support for the map.

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a longtime O'Malley ally, also testified in favor of the governor's proposal.

Note: This item has been updated to correct the spelling of Del. Alfred Carr's first name.


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