O'Malley unveils proposed congressional map

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley released his congressional redistricting plan Saturday evening, hours after a handful of African-American lawmakers walked out of a Legislative Black Caucus meeting and prevented the group from taking an official position on an earlier draft.

O'Malley's map makes only a handful of changes to the boundaries drawn by an advisory committee, adding some neighborhoods in Montgomery County to the 8th Congressional District that Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen had requested.

The plan still would radically redraw lines in Western Maryland, transforming the reliably conservative 6th District held by Rep. Roscoe G, Bartlett into a tossup. The 10-term Republican congressman raised only $1,000 this quarter, further weakening his re-election prospects.

Maryland's General Assembly is to meet Monday to consider new congressional boundaries that will determine the state's federal representation for the next decade. The lines must be redrawn every 10 years to accommodate population changes.

The map that the governor released Saturday did nothing to ease concerns raised by Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat, and some members of the Legislative Black Caucus who wanted a plan that would give Montgomery County a voice in Congress from a racial minority. Under O'Malley's plan, the three incumbents who would represent Montgomery County are not minorities.

The Legislative Black Caucus was to reconvene Monday before the session to attempt another vote on the proposed map. In the House of Delegates, a "no" vote from more than 13 Democrats out of 98 could scuttle the plan if all Republicans oppose it.

Joseph C. Bryce, O'Malley's top legislative aide, left the door open to possible changes.

"We agreed to keep talking," Bryce said. "We wanted to put the map out there to the public."

Edwards made her case Saturday afternoon behind closed doors at the State House to members of the Legislative Black Caucus and said afterward that she is still hopeful that her district lines will be changed.

"This is a really fluid process," Edwards said. "I've made the same pitch I've made to everybody about this, and that's no secret," she said in a reference to her public comments that the proposal could dilute the minority vote. "What I'm really excited about is, I've heard from the governor that they're still taking in a lot of information."

The caucus meeting broke up after three hours of discussion, with the members failing to take a unified position on the map proposed by the governor's panel. During the meeting, which was not open to the public, raised voices could be heard and at times some yelled, "Order, order!"

The doors to the meeting room opened about 3 p.m., and Sen. Anthony C. Muse and Del. Tiffany Alston, both of Prince George's County; and Del. Jill Carter of Baltimore, all Democrats, were among those who rushed out.

"As written, I can't support the map," Alston said as she departed.

Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, said there was "a lot of discussion" about proposals and that the group would reconvene Monday before the legislative session.

Those who support the governor's map were displeased. Del. Melony G. Griffith, chairwoman of the Prince George's County delegation, said she was "tremendously disappointed" that the members of the caucus "had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in an important matter and failed to come to a conclusion."

"It was very clear that every effort was made to consider not only minority representation but the specific issues raised by the caucus," said Griffith, a Democrat.

Several members of the caucus said there was a motion to delay the vote until Monday, but it failed. After a motion was made to vote on the advisory committee's map, several lawmakers left the room, denying the caucus the quorum needed for a vote. The lawmakers spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to break caucus confidentiality rules.

Edwards emerged from the caucus meeting — and a subsequent meeting with advisers — and suggested that there was still a chance her concerns would be addressed. She said she would continue to make her case over the weekend.

Asked whether she would produce a map of her own as an alternative to O'Malley's, Edwards said, "No, no, no — during this entire process it's been about trying to share with the governor the information that we have."

Asked if she thought her meetings went well Saturday, Edwards replied, "Oh, god, yeah."