House Redistricting: Cecil County Shifts Districts, Rudolph Gains Friendlier Turf, James Departs

December 18, 2011

When Del. David Rudolph (D-34B) eked out a tiny margin of victory in a three-way general election contest last year, his supporters breathed a sigh of relief and told themselves it wouldn’t happen again: “There’s always redistricting,” they hoped.

Rudolph’s redistricting prayers seem to have been answered in the new maps proposed by a Democratic-controlled gubernatorial commission late Friday. His all-Cecil County district has been renumbered as District 35A and redrawn to bypass some more heavily GOP areas in the western section of the county while moving eastward into more friendly Democratic areas.

At the same time, Cecil countians will be saying goodbye to a longtime Delegate, Mary-Dulany James (D-34A) of Havre de Grace, whose district was redrawn to omit a small section of Cecil she represented for years. Instead, there will be a new Cecil-Harford district 35B. And southern Cecil County will see its clout diminished in a re-drawn 36th District, where Caroline County gains a significantly larger share of the turf.

State Planning Department data show the new all-Cecil House District 35A has a voting age (18 and over) population of 32,021. In the new map, 6.2 percent of the voting age population is African-American. (Rudolph’s old district was about 2 percent voting-age African-American.)

However, the new online maps do not have an overlay of local roads or election precincts yet and the muddy online maps have two similar shades of yellow to roughly mark the areas covered by the new all-Cecil District 35A and a newly configured District 35B that includes western Cecil and parts of Harford County.

Rudolph was first elected a delegate in 1994 and currently serves as the vice-chair of the powerful Economic Matters Committee. He also serves as the House chair of the Joint Committee on BRAC, tied to the military expansion of jobs at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County. He holds a doctorate in education, was a school principal and heads teacher education programs at Cecil College.

In 2010, Rudolph won 48.7 percent of the general election vote while Republican Ted Patterson received 45.9 percent. Constitution Party candidate Michael W. Dawson, with 773 votes or 5.3 percent, held the balance of power and his presence in the contest ended up tilting the outcome to Rudolph.

(Dawson switched back to the Republican Party this year and has already announced he plans to challenge Rudolph in 2014. A review of interactive state maps shows that Dawson’s home address is in the new district, as is Rudolph’s.)

Meanwhile, the departure of Del. James, who represented a sliver of Cecil County in portions of precinct 7, will mean the loss of a well-known voice in Annapolis. She has been an ambassador for the county and attended local events and meetings with County Commissioners, when some fellow delegates representing much larger portions of the county did not. Her Havre de Grace base will now fall in an all-Harford 34A. The other delegate from 34A, Glen Glass, will also say farewell to Cecil.

Meanwhile, for the new District 35B, Cecil residents will have a new face to meet before the 2014 election. Harford County Delegate Donna Stiffler of Forest Hill currently represents a Harford County 35A, but the state Planning Department’s redistricting interactive map shows her Kreiller Valley Rd. address would be in the new Harford/Cecil Dist 35B, which would put her into running in western Cecil County for the first time.

The Republican Stiffler is a former pharmaceutical sales representative who was elected to the House in 2006 and is a member of the Economic Matters Committee. She lists opposition to illegal immigration at the top of her issues priority list, opposes same-sex marriage, and says on her website, “as a legislator and as a human being, I am opposed to abortion. Period.”

In the new Dist. 35B, despite including a much wider swath of the county than the old 34A, Cecil County voters are still greatly outnumbered by Harford residents. The state Planning Department counts the voting age (18 and over) population of the new district at 46,684 Harford residents to 16,928 Cecil countians, with a total voting-age population of 63,612.

That population total would mean the new district has to host two elected delegates—just as the old 34A did– but the current Delegate from the existing 35B, Susan McComas, a Republican, is listed on the state interactive maps as shifting into a new 34B all-Harford district. [UPDATE: Instead, an unknown entity in Cecil County, Wayne Norman, currently R-35A ,a Harford County lawyer, will inherit a slice of Cecil County that he will have to defend. ]

There could be an opportunity for a newcomer, and perhaps a Cecil countian with Harford County ties, to seek a seat in the redrawn district. (In case you were wondering, the interactive maps show that former Cecil County schools superintendent Carl Roberts’ address is not in the new 35B; instead, he lives in the new Rudolph 35A.)

Interestingly, Rudolph’s Rising Sun-area homebase is divided between his district and the new 35B. We’ll keep you guessing until a separate post on games of interactive map roulette Cecil Times has been playing, running addresses of various politicians against the new district boundaries.

Meanwhile, the long-suffering residents of southern Cecil County once again “get no respect” and will have their clout diminished in a re-drawn 36th district. Some previous Cecil County areas were tossed from the 36th to add turf near Elkton to the re-drawn 35th.

State Planning Department figures show that Cecil County will lose clout while Caroline County gains a lot in the four-county district. The new voting-age population totals for the re-drawn 36th are as follows:

Queen Anne’s: 36,525
Cecil: 26,983
Caroline: 18,170
Kent: 16,718

Total: 98,396

(In addition, 6,660 southern Caroline county potential voters are split off into District 37B, with Dorchester county.)

The redistricting commission said it re-drew the 36th so that Caroline County would have a reasonable shot at electing a county resident to one of the three Delegate seats for the 36th. Caroline residents have been miffed for years that they had no realistic shot to have a “resident delegate” under the old district lines.

The new lines give Caroline a significant advantage over Kent County and could pose a threat to Del. Jay Jacobs, R-Kent. But Jacobs, the popular former mayor of Rock Hall, has worked to solidify his base throughout the district and he has been somewhat independent of the partisanship and agendas of the “Smipkin” organization that controls the rest of the 36th District.

In case Cecil Times readers want to share our migraines and eyestrain, for your viewing pleasure, or displeasure, you can see various maps at the following links, including the current 2002 district map that shows Cecil County main highway and town boundaries fairly clearly. But the new redistricting map for Cecil County is a muddled yellow maze, with two shades of yellow purporting to delineate the new 35A and 35B delegate districts. And if you are a glutton for punishment, you can also see the statewide House map.

1. SEE proposed House of Delegates map of the Eastern Shore here:

2. SEE Statewide Delegates map here:

3.SEE current 2002 maps of area districts here:

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