New Congressional Districts Proposed In Massachusetts
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – A legislative committee on Beacon Hill has proposed sweeping changes to the state's congressional districts. The nine remaining members of the Massachusetts US House delegation will find themselves running for re-election in some unfamiliar territory. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The chairs of the Special Joint Committee on re-districting, State Senator Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst and State Represenative Michael Moran of Boston say the draft plan features new districts that make geographic sense. The map has an incumbent free district in southeastern Massachusetts. There is a so-called minority majority district in greater Boston that is 56 percent non-white.
The plan would completely revamp the two western Massachusetts congressional districts. All of Berkshire County as well as some rural towns from Franklin County would be part of a district that includes the urban centers of Springfield and Holyoke. Northampton, Amherst and Greenfield would end up in a district that includes the city of Worcester. Tim Vercellotti, political science professor at Western New England University says under the proposal, western Massachusetts hangs onto its two seats in congress, but just barely.
Congressman John Olver of Amherst who represented the Berkshires, Franklyn County and parts of Hampshire and Hampden counties for 20 years is retiring. Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, and Congressman James McGovern of Worcester plan to seek re-election in the newly drawn districts.
Neal says he is looking forward to running for re-election next year in the newly configured First District.
The redistricting likely sets up a Democratic primary next between Neal and Andrea Nuciforo of Pittsfield, a former state senator and current register of deeds, who has declared his intention to run.
Anthony Cignolli a Springfield based political consultant says the new districts could invite new candidates.
Voter advocacy groups that closely followed the redistricting process and offered suggestions to the legislative committee were very pleased with the outcome. Pam Wilmot is executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.
The redistricting process in Massachusetts a decade ago ended in a mess with a lawsuit that led to a former Massachusetts House Speaker convicted of perjury. Wilmot says a suit is always possible this time around, but much less likely.
There is a public comment period before the redistricting committee votes on the draft plan this Thursday. The full legislature must approve it by November 16th and it must be signed by Governor Deval Patrick.
Reporting from WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau on the campus of Western New England University I'm Paul Tuthill