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Shank, McKee remain in districts

June 24, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A new legislative redistricting plan unveiled by the Maryland Court of Appeals on Friday dramatically shuffles the political matchups in Washington County's fall elections.

Republican incumbents Del. Robert A. McKee and Del. Christopher B. Shank will no longer have to run against each other because they are restored to their respective election districts, 2A and 2B.

District 1C now held by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County takes in more of Washington County than it did before, stretching east to Conococheague Creek.

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Clear Spring Republicans Vikki Nelson and LeRoy Myers, who filed to run for what had been an open seat in District 2A, now live in Taylor's district.

William J. Wivell said Friday he will probably drop out of the District 2A race to duck a showdown with incumbent McKee. Wivell will instead run for re-election to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Most of southern Washington County, with the exception of Dargan and Sandy Hook, will again be represented by a county resident instead of being broken off into District 3B, a majority Frederick County district.

The only election district that didn't change significantly was the largely Hagerstown district of Del. John P. Donoghue. Republican Robert E. Bruchey II is the only person who has filed to run against the incumbent Democrat.

The filing deadline is July 1 for county elected officials and July 8 for state lawmakers.

Republicans praised the court for coming up with the new plan Friday after it declared Gov. Parris Glendening's plan unconstitutional a week ago.

Democrats had predicted the court would make few changes to the districts in Western Maryland, since most of the arguments were directed at districts in the Baltimore area.

But the court ended up following the recommendation of Del. Joseph Getty, R-Carroll, who argued that the districts in Western Maryland were not compact and were designed to defeat as many Republican incumbents as possible.

"The court looked at Glendening's plan and held their nose. I think the court's done a great job following the constitutional mandate," Getty said.

Donoghue said the plan stays true to Washington County's goal of having local representation to the greatest extent possible.

"Some of the lines changed and some of the faces change, but I think we made out well," he said.

Shank was pleased with the plan, which puts him in the position of having no competition in the primary or the general election with three weeks to go before the filing deadline.

"I guess that will all sort itself out. I'm just glad the district is made whole and we avoid the bloodbath of a Republican primary," Shank said.

McKee, it appears, will now go up against Democrat Peter Perini in the general election unless other candidates in District 2A come forward.

Perini said he was pleased with the new boundaries because most county residents will be represented by someone who lives in the county.

"I'm sure there are many candidates who are fretting over this map right now but I have full confidence in myself and my campaign," he said.

Myers is not backing down from the possibility of taking on Taylor in the general election, although he said he will have to change the focus of his campaign now that 60 percent of the district lies in Allegany County.

"I am rarin' to go," he said.

Myers already had printed some bumper stickers and flyers with District 2A that no longer apply.

Taylor, who has served in the House since 1975, is no stranger to Washington County, having represented the western part of the county before 1990.

Nelson also said she will remain in the race despite the drastic changes.

"Between the governor and the courts, they have really made it a bowl of spaghetti," she said.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, who was one of the harshest critics of the governor's plan as it concerned Washington County, said he also was happy with the outcome.

In Glendening's plan, Mooney's District 3 entered southern Washington County and was drawn to take in Sharpsburg, Fairplay and most of the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Washington County Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said she was glad the courts acted swiftly so her office can get on with the enormous task of notifying voters whose election districts will change.

The new map can be viewed on the Internet at redistricting.state.md.us/maryland. From there, click on "View Current and Proposed Legislative or Congressional Plans." Then chose "Court of Appeals Legislative Redistricting Plan."

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