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Politics

Maryland’s congressional redistricting leaves some House members, candidates in new territory

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris hasn’t changed home addresses, but the six-term Maryland congressman suddenly found his house in northern Baltimore County in a novel place last week: outside of his congressional district.

So too did two-term U.S. Rep. David Trone, who still lives in Potomac but for the first time can count himself among his constituents.

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Although neither moved, the lines dividing up Maryland’s eight congressional districts did when Democratic state lawmakers brushed aside Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to pass their congressional redistricting plan last Thursday.

Candidates for the U.S. House aren’t required to live in the district where they are running, so the changes won’t affect either congressman’s eligibility for re-election. But it does mean that Trone presumably will be able to count on the support from one more voter — himself — in next fall’s midterms, while Harris won’t see his own name on the ballot for the first time since being elected in 2010.

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Even without his own vote of support, Harris, a member of the outspoken conservative Freedom Caucus and Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, remains the favorite to win re-election in the reconfigured Eastern Shore-based First District, although his odds are far less assured under the new lines.

The district no longer includes Harris’ Cockeysville neighborhood or other conservative-leaning northern Baltimore suburbs to the west of Interstate 95 — but it does now jump across the Bay Bridge to pull in portions of Anne Arundel County, where voters are much more likely to back Democrats.

The congressional map approved by the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday. SOURCE: Maryland General Assembly Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission | Baltimore Sun graphic

Swapping those voters alters Harris’ congressional district from one where voters backed former Republican President Donald Trump by about 20 percentage points over President Joe Biden in 2020 — while re-electing Harris in a landslide — to a district where voters would have very narrowly preferred Biden, a Democrat.

As for Harris, he now finds himself living in one of Maryland’s most overwhelmingly Democratic district and a new constituent of U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat and a politician well on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

A spokesman for Mfume declined to comment on adding his fellow congressman as a constituent.

Mfume’s district is one of three congressional districts that snake through the area around Cockeysville under the freshly enacted map. Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger also lives in Cockeysville while U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, also a Democrat, lives just a few miles away in Towson. Both represent portions of the area as well, including their own homes.

Harris, a 64-year-old anesthesiologist, does have a second home in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore that remains in the district he represents.

In a statement to The Baltimore Sun, Harris suggested his sudden relocation to another congressional district was another part of an effort by Democrats in Annapolis to use their power to redraw the state’s election maps to their partisan advantage.

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“It’s no coincidence that the only incumbent drawn out of his district is the Republican,” Harris said, “another example of the extreme partisan gerrymandering that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Maryland Republicans.”

Trone, a Democrat, couldn’t vote for himself when he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. That’s because Trone’s Potomac home and the surrounding neighborhoods near the river in the ritzy D.C. suburb have been in the neighboring 8th District for the past decade.

In fact, Trone, a business magnate who built his fortune after co-founding Total Wine & More with his brother, tried to win that congressional seat when he launched his first political campaign two years earlier but lost to fellow Democrat Jamie Raskin.

A spokesperson for Trone said the congressman didn’t ask state lawmakers for the change and suggested living a few miles outside the district or within it wouldn’t make a difference in how Trone approached the job.

“David Trone is very happy to represent his new constituents coming into the next term,” said Sasha Galbreath, the spokesperson. “We strongly believe we’ve done a fantastic job representing our district as it was and how it’ll continue to be.”

But for at least one of the three Democratic candidates challenging Harris, the altered map means an abrupt change in plans.

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Dave Harden said he’s now house hunting on the Eastern Shore after his home in Carroll County also was redrawn out of the 1st District. Harden said he believes a member of Congress should live among their constituents, even though it’s not legally required. Harden believes he’s the kind of centrist Democrat who could appeal to voters in either the new district or the former one.

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“I feel like I’m in the pole position,” he said.

Democratic candidate Heather Mizeur represented Montgomery County as a former state delegate but now lives on a farm she owns in Kent County. Mizeur also expressed confidence that she can win regardless of shifting boundary lines. She’s scheduling meet-and-greets and business tours in the new Anne Arundel County portion of the district.

“This is our map. This is our new community,” Mizeur said. “I’ve always said I’m going to defeat Andy Harris no matter what the map looked like.”

Jennifer Pingley, a nurse from Cecil County, is launching another small-dollar, volunteer-run campaign for the nomination to run against Harris after finishing third in the 2020 Democratic primary. Her home in Cecil — like Mizeur’s Kent County farm — remains in the district.

“It doesn’t really matter what the makeup of the district is,” she said. “My policies, how I handle things, how I make my assessments aren’t going to change.”

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Republicans, including Gov. Larry Hogan and his allies, have suggested they’ll challenge the new congressional maps in court. But Harden, Mizeur and Pingley say whether the maps stand or fall won’t affect their plans to run.

Baltimore Sun staff reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.


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