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Cas Taylor confident about race

June 30, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Republicans say newly redrawn legislative districts will make it more difficult for Maryland's powerful House Speaker, a Democrat, to get re-elected in conservative Western Maryland.

But Democrats downplayed the significance of the change, saying Casper R. Taylor Jr. remains the clear favorite even though the latest plan shifted more Republicans into his district.

Last week, Del. Joseph Getty, R-Carroll, urged members of the Washington County Republican Club to mobilize the party vote in the race for District 1C.

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Getty said voters will associate Taylor with the Smart Growth and gun control policies unpopular in rural parts of the state.

"Cas Taylor knows that he is vulnerable in the rural area he represents," said Getty, who challenged the redistricting lines ruled unconstitutional last month by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The court threw out Gov. Parris Glendening's plan, which confined most of Taylor's district to his home county of Allegany with the exception of one Hancock precinct in Washington County.

In the new plan, Taylor's district comes all the way east to Huyett's Crossroads. About 35 percent of the registered voters in the district live in Washington County.

Politically, it makes the district practically even in terms of Democrat and Republican registration, according to figures from the 2000 election.

Under the Glendening plan, into which Taylor had input, the district comprised 47.8 percent Democrats and 42.8 percent Republicans.

Taylor denied he drew the map to exclude most of Washington County. He said the original map was drawn to accommodate a Republican request to keep District 1A, held by Del. George Edwards, from coming further east. As a result, his own district also stayed further east, he said.

"What you're hearing from Joe Getty is nothing but unfounded, incorrect political rhetoric," Taylor said.

If Taylor sounds confident, Washington County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Rick Hemphill believes he has reason to be.

Defeating such a powerful lawmaker would be an uphill battle for anyone. Taylor has served in the House for 28 years, the last eight as speaker.

Neither of the two Republicans who have filed to run in that district - LeRoy Myers and Vikki Nelson - has held public office, although Nelson was elected to the Republican Central Committee.

When each of them filed, they thought they would be running for an open seat with voters from Washington County only.

"I obviously can't speak for them, but given the situation I would think this turn of events would be more distressing to them than it would to me," Taylor said.

Taylor said he's not concerned about the competition. He noted that less than a decade ago he represented many of the 13,000 Washington County residents who are in his district now.

"I look forward to revisiting the people of western Washington County because I've had the privilege of representing them for 12 years," he said. "It's almost like a cycle that's coming full circle again."

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