General Assembly redistricting could shift balance in Arundel

Some conservative state lawmakers from Anne Arundel County would find themselves in more-Democratic districts under a proposed redistricting plan that observers say could change the balance of power in the county's Republican-leaning delegation.

The county's 15-member delegation in the House of Delegates, which consists of eight Republicans and seven Democrats, could potentially add two Democratic seats if the proposal stands, according to political observers.

Some of the most dramatic changes are proposed for District 31, where Del. Don H. Dwyer, Jr., a Republican, has watched his largely GOP-leaning Pasadena constituency move north into Democratic-leaning Glen Burnie. Additionally, Del. Herbert H. McMillan, a Republican, would share a district with House Speaker Michael E. Busch. The newly drawn district sheds Republican-leaning voters on the Broadneck Peninsula and in Southern Anne Arundel.

Dwyer and McMillan could not be reached for comment.

The new map will be considered by the General Assembly in the legislative session that begins in January.

Proponents of the proposal, which also creates a Republican-leaning single-member district for a Republican incumbent, say it's designed to group like-minded communities in Anne Arundel to provide more effective representation. Opponents say the changes negatively affect the re-election chances of several Republican incumbents.

Busch, who sat on the redistricting commission, rejected the notion that the changes were politically motivated. Busch's own District 30, which previously included the more conservative areas of the Broadneck Peninsula and southern Anne Arundel in addition to the city of Annapolis, now includes only the city.

"In the final analysis, I think it's a very fair map for the citizens of Anne Arundel County," said Busch, a Democrat. "It's certainly not about the Republicans or Democrats, it's about the citizens. It's unfortunate that they want to make it a political issue."

Del. Ronald A. George, a Republican, receives his own sub-district under the proposal. George's new district consists of the Republican-leaning areas of Busch's old district, which is now District 33. George previously represented those areas, in addition to the city of Annapolis.

Despite what he called his own good fortune in the redistricting process, he said overall he was disappointed with the change.

"When you have Anne Arundel divided up like that, you're really diluting the Republican vote," said George, who said he'll miss his Annapolis constituents. Asked whether he was surprised that he had fared so well in the process, he said, "I may play nice but [he and Busch] go head to head on different issues. There's no buddy-buddy agreement. … But look, I'm not complaining about it."

County Executive John R. Leopold, who served two decades in the House of Delegates before winning the race for county executive in 2006, said although it appears that Republicans were targeted in the redistricting, the plan could backfire because Democratic voters often lean Republican in Anne Arundel.

"Anne Arundel is a conservative county and there are many Democrats, conservative Democrats, who vote for Republicans," Leopold said. "The people who drafted these lines did so in the hopes that they would turn it back to Democratic control, which is not unexpected. … The best plans may go awry."

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