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June 24, 2002

Court's Redistricting Plan Has Profound Effect Here

John W. Ashbury

There is no truth to the rumor that Delegate Sue Hecht (D., 3rd) got a free ride on the MedEvac helicopter on Friday after suffering a heart attack after seeing the Maryland Court of Appeals redistricting plan.

As everyone must know by now, nearly two weeks ago the state's highest court struck down Governor Parris N. Glendening's plan for the legislative districts in the upcoming election. The seven judges ruled that the plan was "unconstitutional." They said it ignored the requirement to make the district compact and to adhere to natural and political barriers, such as county lines and rivers.

Baltimore City came out the big loser. Several powerful legislators will be pitted against one another in the fall elections. Montgomery County's power in the General Assembly will increase.

Cas Taylor, speaker of The House of Delegates and a resident of Cumberland, saw his district brought east, almost to Hagerstown. And Senate President Thomas V. (Mike) Miller had two counties removed from the Glendening plan, leaving him with only areas of Prince George's and Calvert counties.

There is little doubt that the court-drawn map will result in numerous changes in the leadership in the General Assembly.

But enough about the state consequences, what is going to happen here in Frederick County?

Ms. Hecht had to be disappointed, to say the least, that areas of heavy Democratic voters in Washington County were removed from District 3, and replaced by heavy Republican areas in southern Frederick County. This move would seem to favor Senator Alex Mooney in his re-election bid, which is being challenged by Ms. Hecht.

On the other hand, County Commissioner Rick Weldon must be as happy as a pig at the slop trough. He benefits, along with Mooney, from the removal of those Democratic areas of Washington County and the addition of Urbana and Kemptown, both with large Republican registration.

District 3 does retain two precincts in Washington County, where the people travel to Brunswick to shop, and whose residents subscribe to the weekly Brunswick Citizen, rather than the daily Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

The three Republicans running in the newly configured District 3-A - the Rev. Sammie Conyers, Justin Kiska and Tim Brooks - didn't get any help at all. That area, which includes Frederick City and environs including Spring Ridge, is a Republican area according to voter registrations, but not by much. However, it is perceived as a Democratic stronghold because of who actually votes there.

From the list of current Democratic candidates in District 3 - Galen Clagett, Rick Stup, Dick Zimmerman, Ron Bird, Michael O'Connor and Carole Powell - will likely come the two delegates to the General Assembly in January. Of course, others may yet file, the deadline for filing has been extended to July 8, two weeks from today.

Delegate David Brinkley, who is challenging Sen. Tim Ferguson for the District 4 seat, saw areas (Kemptown and Urbana, where he has run strong in two earlier elections) removed from his map. He will now have to campaign in a larger area of Carroll County, which could give an advantage to Senator Ferguson, who is a resident of Taylorsville.

Don Elliott, who has represented three election districts in the northeastern section of Frederick County as the delegate from District 4-B, will now have only one precinct in the county - Woodville 1, which includes Mt. Airy.

And that brings us to District 4-A where three incumbent Republican delegates will fight it out for just two seats. Delegate Louise Snodgrass, of Middletown, did an admirable job as chairman of the delegation. She is always upbeat and works extremely hard behind the scenes for the county. She has been able to avoid the controversies that have embroiled her comrades in the delegation.

One of the difficulties in being chair is that you must steer the delegation bills through the General Assembly process, often to the detriment of those measures you personally proposes, or just feel very strongly about. Frederick County has benefited from her work, although she frequently gets little credit for it. If one of her colleagues has a particular interest in a delegation bill, Ms. Snodgrass lets them pound their chests, when, in fact, she should do some of that, too.

Delegate Paul Stull is seeking re-election for the second time. Of all the members of Frederick County's contingent to Annapolis, he has worked the hardest for the agricultural community. People make fun of some of his bills - like making milk the state drink , but our farmers appreciate his advocacy.

Mr. Stull taught school and was an administrator when he retired from Frederick County Public Schools. And he was well liked by the students. Those students are now parents, and many are farm workers themselves. So, like the rest of us, they vote for someone they know and like.

Delegate Joe Bartlett has done little to distinguish himself in his four ears in Annapolis. But some would say that is due to the learning curve when you first get to Annapolis. He has proposed little legislation himself, and most of what he did file went down to defeat. His youth also worked against him with the powers that be in our state capitol.

But he has his father's name. And that is a major plus when so many voters don't really know, or attempt to learn, who the candidates are and base their decision simple on names they recognize.

There will be a lot of changes in the next two weeks. Some state candidates will pack it in; others will appear.

The filing deadline for all other offices, including county commissioner, is at 9 P.M. Monday, July 1, one week from today.

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