Maryland 5th District
Southern Maryland was established as a colony of the British Lords Baltimore, who were seeking a refuge for English Catholics in the New World. The Lords Baltimore, first George and then Cecil Calvert, founded St. Mary’s in 1634, not long after the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Maryland became one of the two great Chesapeake tobacco colonies, with plantation houses on every inlet off the broad Potomac and Patuxent rivers. For years, the towns of southern Maryland grew slowly, and even today many of their residents are directly descended from the old families. The region was never Puritan country. Liquor flowed even during Prohibition, and for years, Maryland law specifically allowed slot machines. But tobacco farming is nearing an end, even if the area hasn’t completely renounced its tobacco heritage. The highlight of the annual Charles County fair remains the crowning of Queen Nicotina, who must be a local high school senior. The area’s economic base has owed much to government installations: the Civil War Point Lookout prisoner-of-war camp; the Navy’s Patuxent River complex, where many astronauts began their training; and the Naval Air Warfare Center. Today, metro Washington and Baltimore are spreading into Southern Maryland, with rapid growth in Calvert County south of Annapolis—the fastest-growing county in Maryland from 2000 to 2007. Charles and St. Mary’s counties are not far behind. Charles County has become the new home of many African-American families fleeing crime and troubled schools in Prince George’s County. Today, most of Charles County’s schoolchildren are black. Its median household income rose to more than $80,000 in 2008, thanks in part to many two-government-employee families. Also in 2008, minor league baseball arrived here when the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs took up residence in a new stadium in Waldorf.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 5th Congressional District of Maryland comprises Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties, plus most of Prince George’s County outside of the Capital Beltway. Its lines were drawn to ensure a large African-American percentage in the adjacent 4th District, but blacks—both new suburbanites and descendants of old Southern Maryland families—made up 35% of the district’s population in 2007. The district takes in College Park, home of the University of Maryland, and nearby Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Beltsville, Laurel, and Bowie. Historically, this is a Democratic area. Whites in the rural areas have trended Republican, but incoming blacks raised Charles County’s voter turnout 19% between 2004 and 2008 and increased its Democratic percentage from 50% to 62%.