Speculation abounds about what could happen in the local 2014 elections after the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee released its state legislative redistricting plan last week.
Though not final, the committee's plan makes changes to Howard's legislative districts that have some pondering the plans of the county's current General Assembly representatives, as well as those of others who may be interested in an office in Annapolis.
The plan creates an additional single-member delegate district for Howard County by moving District 9A, which is currently represented by West Friendship Republican Del. Gail Bates and Woodbine Republican Del. Warren Miller, out to Ellicott City.
To replace the existing District 9A, District 9B would be moved into Howard from Carroll County. The new District 9B, where Bates and Miller live, mostly covers conservative areas — part of Carroll County and much of western Howard from Ellicott City in the north to Clarksville, Highland and Fulton in the south. The southern, more Republican-leaning areas are picked up from District 13, making District 13 an even easier area for Democrats to win.
Given the conservative gains from Carroll and the southwestern part of Howard — as well as the loss of more moderate voters in Ellicott City to the new District 9A – Miller said it should be easier for him and Bates to win in the new District 9B than in their current district.
The new District 9A is strikingly similar to the Ellicott City portion of County Council District 1. Some, including Miller and District 9 state Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, believe the district is designed for Courtney Watson, the District 1 County Council representative, to discourage her from running for county executive.
But Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat who has said she is considering a run for county executive in 2014, isn't biting.
"My interest and focus has always been at the local level, the county level," Watson said this week. "I foresee my interest always being on the county level."
Asked if that means she is not even considering a run for a state legislature seat, Watson confirmed: "Definitely, it's not something to consider."
Some have speculated that District 13 Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat who is also considering a run for county executive, had a hand in drawing the new District 9A. Guzzone said that's not the case.
"Quite frankly, the way things are done is pretty top-down," he said. "They look at what they think will be best for the state and (their political) party."
The new District 9A seat is hardly a lock for Democrats, but it will be competitive. If the Democrats are successful in winning that seat, Kittleman said it would be a loss for Republicans, as all three current District 9 delegates are Republican.
The committee's plan also has caused speculation about the future of the incumbent delegates in District 12. The district was drawn without subdistricts, making the campaigning area much larger (from west Columbia to Halethorpe) for Columbia Democrat Del. Liz Bobo, who currently represents District 12B, and Halethorpe Democrats Dels. James Malone and Steven DeBoy, who currently represent District 12A.
"All three of us are going to have our challenges as we take on new territory," DeBoy said.
A few local bloggers have speculated the elimination of the District 12 subdistricts was aimed at nudging Bobo, who doesn't always vote with the Democratic leadership, into retirement.
"I'd be very surprised if that were the case," Bobo said. She said if the Annapolis leadership had wanted to get rid of her, all they had to do was draw her into District 9.
Though she wouldn't say what her plans are for 2014, Bobo said, "the map will have no impact on what I do."
District 12 Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat, said the elimination of the subdistricts "was a political decision" aimed at making the district safer for Democrat delegates. West Columbia has a much higher proportion of Democratic voters than the Baltimore County part of the district, where DeBoy said voters tend to be more moderate or conservative.