Maryland 7th District
At the junction of North and South, Baltimore is a product of both European immigration and the migration of African-Americans from the South. Its black community has a rich history. The Afro-American newspaper has been published here for more than 100 years, and there was once a black symphony orchestra. Eubie Blake, one of the founders of ragtime music, grew up here and now has a museum in his honor on Charles Street. Jazz great Billie Holliday was born here, as was Cab Calloway, the 1930s and 1940s big band leader, and Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African-American Supreme Court justice. Near downtown on the west side is the childhood home of slugger Babe Ruth and the home of writer H.L. Mencken. For years, this side of town had a biracial, bipartisan politics in which Democrats like Gov. Albert Ritchie and Republicans such as Gov. Theodore McKeldin competed zestfully for black and white votes. Baltimore has been a black majority city since the late 1970s, and most of its west-side neighborhoods are heavily African-American.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1990s, Baltimore was hit by a terrible crime wave, with open drug markets on both the west and east sides. Democratic Mayor Martin O’Malley, elected in 1999, promised to build “a new Baltimore” with zero tolerance of crime; he went on to win the governorship in 2006. But many of the city’s problems remained, with almost 20% of the city’s residential areas classified as distressed.
Maryland’s 7th Congressional District includes most of Baltimore’s west side, plus the heavily African-American suburbs west of the city and extending to Catonsville along the old Baltimore National Pike. It also includes most of suburban Howard County. About 40% of the district’s votes are cast in Baltimore City’s precincts, largely north of Pratt Street, in places like Druid Heights; Harlem Park; Charles Village, which is home to Johns Hopkins University and poverty-stricken Sandtown-Winchester. Howard County is quite a different area. It grew 32% in the 1990s, and its largest community, Columbia, is a planned town that attracts a culturally liberal population. It tends to vote Democratic, and in 2004 cast 13% of the district’s votes. There is a sharp socioeconomic contrast between these two parts of the district. Howard County is predominately white, has the third-highest median household income of all counties in the nation, and 4% of children under age 5 live in poverty. In Baltimore City, only 4 % of households earn more than $100,000 and 40% of children are poor.