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Ron Bowers considers run for state senate

January 17, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

For years, Ronald L. Bowers openly toyed with the idea of running for state senate in Maryland.

But he always backed off because his Maugansville home is in District 3 - not in District 2, where a majority of Washington County's residents live. District 3 covers the western half of Frederick County and the northeastern corner of Washington County.

Now Bowers, who has no intention of moving, has hit upon another idea - moving District 2 to him.

Bowers, a Democrat defeated last November in his bid for a sixth term as Washington County Commissioner, is leading a drive to add the county's northeastern part to District 2 after the 2000 census.

At present, about 21,000 or only about 22 percent of the roughly 96,000 people in District 3 live in Washington County.

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"It's totally imbalanced. There needs to be a bipartisan effort" to change it, Bowers said.

He makes no secret of the fact that he has thought about running for the state senate in the past and might do so in 2002.

"I've always had a desire to be at the state level. I won't deny that," he said.

But Bowers said he is motivated by more than personal ambition.

The Washington County residents in District 3 are represented by three state delegates and a state senator, all of whom all live in Frederick County.

"It has to be worked out The area deserves its own senatorial representation," he said. "I think they represent Washington County's interests as far as what they think we're interested in."

However, no matter how attentive those lawmakers are, Bowers said, they cannot be in tune with Washington County because they don't live here.

He noted that such District 3 residents as those in Fountainhead live fewer than three miles from Hagerstown's Public Square, yet are represented in Annapolis by legislators who live 30 miles away in Frederick.

The legislative districts will not be redrawn for another two years, but Bowers said it is important to build broad support for a plan well ahead of time.

It might not be easy. Legislative districts are set largely according to population figures determined by the census. According to the 1990 census, District 3 has about 95,000 residents and District 2 has about 100,000 residents.

The idea has widespread appeal, though. Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington County said they think county residents should be represented by other county residents.

Vincent Dellaposta, first vice chairman of the county Republican Party, said northeastern county residents get the short end of the stick.

"Only a total brain-dead lunatic would admit that anyone in (that section of) Washington County had any kind of coverage," he said. "Frederick ought to be represented by their people and we ought to represented by ours."

How to redraw the lines is a decision that is a long way off, according to political observers.

Bowers suggested that District 3 could take in the southern part of the county, which has a Knoxville, Md., address.

Dellaposta said declining population in Allegany County might force a district that comprises parts of both counties, as was the case in the 1980s when Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, represented the western part of Washington County.

Rick L. Hemphill, chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, said he would like the state to consider increasing the size of the General Assembly so there are more legislators who represent fewer people.

Hemphill said he also favors single-member districts so legislators are more accountable. Currently, three delegates run at-large in District 3.

Hemphill said local Democrats fought hard against the configuration of District 3 during the last census. Although party officials have not discussed the issue recently, he predicted it will be on the agenda this year.

It's an issue leaders of both parties can agree on in Washington County.

"It's not so much a party issue; it's a representation issue," he said.

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