Political ripple effects follow proposed Massachusetts redistricting maps
Berkshire County is in line to lose a Massachusetts statehouse seat, according to proposed new district maps released Tuesday. The draft plan is already having ripple effects in Western Massachusetts politics.
Under the draft redistricting plan following the 2020 Census, the state House seats held by John Barrett of the 1st Berkshire district and Paul Mark of the 2nd Berkshire district — both Democrats — would be combined. That would drop the number of Berkshire County delegates on Beacon Hill from four to three.
Although Massachusetts’ population was up in the past decade, most of the growth was in the eastern part of the state, which Barrett acknowledged just after the maps were released.
"Obviously I'm disappointed that Berkshire County is losing a seat in the House. But I guess it's just a sign of the times. Our population is down," Barrett said. "The news, I guess, is all of our delegation will be in Berkshire County, the three House seats anyhow. So that works out well. My district, I guess I've added four communities to get me up to the level I need. But they're good communities, I know them well, I represented them when I was a county commissioner many years ago. That's the good news of everything. It's as good as they could do."
Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier represents the 3rd Berkshire district and served on the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting.
"Knowing that we've lost a Berkshire rep has an impact on all of us and we're sorry to see that happen, but we're not at all surprised. This has been something that we knew was going to happen for years," she said. "However, with the redrawing of the districts, the three strong Berkshire reps, we are all in the Berkshires, nobody else is in the Berkshires with us, nobody is spilling over into districts in neighboring counties. I feel really good about the map."
Meantime, state Senator Adam Hinds kicked off his campaign for lieutenant governor in Pittsfield Wednesday. The second-term Democrat from the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district succeeded Ben Downing in the seat. Downing is now running for governor.
Those campaigns got off the ground without a decision from Republican Governor Charlie Baker and his Lieutenant Governor, Karyn Polito, about seeking a third term. It’s also unclear what second-term Attorney General Maura Healey, a powerful Democrat, will do next year.
Hinds tells WAMC he’s ready to take his message statewide.
“There’s a need for someone from Western Mass to be in those positions,” Hinds said. “Again I hear every single day people from out here, ‘I’m from Western Mass, people say the government doesn’t work for me, the systems don’t pay attention to me, I don’t have a voice.’ I want to make sure that the lieutenant governor and the government is governing for all of Massachusetts in every single corner.”
With Hinds seeking statewide office, it’s expected state Representative Mark could run for the Senate seat. Mark has held the 2nd Berkshire district seat for a decade.
"It's unfortunate, of course, although it was inevitable that as a result of the decline in population we've gone from maybe six rep districts 30, 40 years ago down to three now," Mark said.
Public comment on the new maps is being taken through Monday, and the maps must be finalized next month.