When Maryland state Sen. John H. Garrity (D-Prince George's) watched the state's reapportionment committee vote Tuesday on its initial plan to redraw Maryland's 47 legislative districts, he remembers thinking that his political career was ending.
But while Garrity and other state senators from Prince George's worried that one of them would be out of a job, Democratic state Sen. James Simpson, representing parts of rural Charles and St. Mary's counties in Southern Maryland, recalls thinking, happily, that he might soon have a colleague in the state Senate from his region.
The plan that caused such hopes and sorrows on Tuesday is the first step in a shifting balance of political power in Maryland from urban areas in and around Washington and Baltimore to more rural areas of the state.
"I felt that I was really dealt a severe blow," said Garrity, whose district borders Washington, "from which it would be practically impossible to recover.
"Most likely what would happen is that my district would be split off into other districts so that it would ensure that I would not be able to amass a predominant vote because my constituents would be in other districts," he said.
The group drawing the new political map, Gov. Harry Hughes' Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting, will send it to Hughes in November. The legislature will adopt some version of it in February. And that version -- along with the inevitable mix of politics -- will reflect population losses by the cities during the 1970s.
Under the committee's plan, the three largest jurisdictions -- Prince George's County, Baltimore city and county -- will lose representation. The areas that will gain representation are the previously less-populated counties of Charles, St. Mary's, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard, Montgomery and Frederick.
The initial map adopted Tuesday does not show specific legislative districts. But it does divide the state into regions and, more importantly, allocates a certain number of legislative districts to each region.
Prince George's County currently has eight legislative districts -- with one senator and three delegates from each district. State senators from the county said they are bound to lose one of those districts, because the committee put it in a region with four other counties that will get a total of 13 districts rather than 14, as state senators from Prince George's had requested.
The state senators from Prince George's whose careers are most threatened live in legislative districts where the population has been declining. They include Garrity from the 22nd District or Hyattsville, state Sen. Thomas Patrick O'Reilly from the 23rd District or New Carrollton and state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, from the 25th District or Seat Pleasant.
State senators from Prince George's had hoped they could keep their eight legislative districts by including more of Charles County in a district the counties share. But yesterday some senators said they doubted that such a plan would work.
There are two reasons for their doubts. First, the redistricting commission passed a motion requiring Prince George's to share a northern boundary with Montgomery, Howard or Anne Arundel counties -- a requirement that might make it difficult for Prince George's to have enough population in its southern district to control the seat it shares with Charles County.
The second reason for their doubts has to do with the feelings of those who live in Charles and St. Mary's counties. "If Prince George's should try to move south, there's no question we would have to go to court," said state Sen. Simpson. "We have nothing in common with Prince George's. We need two legislative districts of our own."