The Maryland Democratic Party has come up with yet another congressional redistricting plan, one that would stretch U.S. Representative Tom McMillen's mostly Anne Arundel County district all the way from Pocomoke City on the lower Eastern Shore to Essex in eastern Baltimore County.
This latest plan -- the third variation the Democrats have concocted -- would split the Eastern Shore into two congressional districts, would divide Southern Maryland's three counties into two districts and would split Baltimore County among five of the state's eight congressmen.
The plan also would force two of the state's three Republican congressmen, Representatives Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, into the same district.
"If that is the Democrats' plan, then they are going to have a war on," vowed an angry Mrs. Bentley, hinting again that if the final plan is not to her liking, she will challenge either Mr. McMillen or U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., for re-election next year.
Democratic Party officials proclaimed it a "consensus plan," backed by all five incumbent Democratic congressmen. Officials called it the fruit of several days of difficult closed-door negotiating last week.
"It's a plan that has been agreed to by the five incumbent Democratic members of the congressional delegation," said Democratic Party Chairman Nathan Landow.
But some of the incumbents disagreed.
Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, said he has not even seen this latest plan.
U.S. Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, called it "clearly Nate Landow's plan," adding that the involvement of individual congressmen has mostly focused on how the new plan affects their respective districts, "not the state map."
Pressed on whether it is truly a consensus plan, Mr. Landow said, "There are no objections to it."
But an aide to House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, a member of the governor's five-member Redistricting Advisory Commission, said Mr. Mitchell has never supported a plan that splits the Eastern Shore and will not support this one.
As for whether the plan was an effort to save Mr. McMillen's seat, Mr. Landow said, "It's a plan that puts Tom McMillen in the same position as the other four incumbents: that is, that each of them now are running in their own district."
In previous plans, Mr. McMillen was the odd man out, squeezed from all sides by the encroaching districts of his colleagues.
Under the plan, his new district would include all of Worcester and Somerset counties and parts of Dorchester and Wicomico on the lower Eastern Shore. It would then jump across the Chesapeake Bay to include all of Calvert County and part of eastern Anne Arundel County and slip north of the Patapsco River to include the Dundalk and Essex areas of Baltimore County.
Another goal of the Democrats is to protect U.S. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, a top-ranking member of the U.S. Congress, by giving him a safe district. The latest plan would put Mr. Hoyer in a district that would include most of Prince George's County, all of St. Mary's and Charles counties and small parts of Anne Arundel and Montgomery.
The Democratic proposal for Mrs. Bentley's 2nd District would ,, expand it to include not only Baltimore County but all of Harford, Cecil, Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties and parts of Dorchester and Wicomico counties.