Massachusetts' Redistricting News
(July 12, 2001-July 30, 2001)

 

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines." July 30, 2001
 The Boston Globe: "No fast help for Meehan on district: Governor, speaker keep their distance." July 26, 2001
 
The Boston Globe: "Meehan vows fight for district: Gubernatorial bid is out; seeks new House term." July 24, 2001
 Associated Press: "Mayors rally against redistricting." July 21, 2001
 The Herald News: "Proposed area seems catered to ethnic group." July 18, 2001
 Associated Press: "Meehan against plan." July 18, 2001

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." July 16, 2001
 The Herald News: "GOP sees gold in redistricting plan." July 15, 2001
 The Boston Globe: "Give credit to Finneran." July 12, 2001
 The Herald News: "The race is on for new House seat." July 12, 2001
 The Herald News: "House changes start political maneuvering." July 12, 2001 

More recent redistricting news from Massachusetts

Roll Call
Between the Lines
By John Mercurio
July 30, 2001

Meehan in the Middle.

Worried about continued resistance from state House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D), the Bay State's House delegation is finally throwing its weight behind Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) in a battle between the two over redistricting.

That is, everyone except Rep. Barney Frank (D), who said Friday that he erred when he signed a delegation letter urging Finneran to drop his map plan. "I'm embarrassed," Frank told The Associated Press. "I made a stupid, careless mistake."

Frank said he supports Finneran's plan to create a majority-minority district in southeastern Massachusetts, a move that would require Meehan to run against Rep. John Tierney (D). "There appears to be strong interest in one and I am supportive of that," Frank said. "I represent those people, and I would have to side with them."

Responding to Finneran's threat, Meehan last week opted to forgo a gubernatorial bid to run again in what he hopes will be his own district.

Finneran had said he would reconsider his proposal if Meehan quit the governor's race to seek re-election. However, he reversed course last week, maintaining his support for the map that pits Tierney against Meehan.

"Adopting a redistricting plan that preserves and enhances a delegation's influence in federal decision making is a worthy and important goal of any state's redistricting plan," the House Members wrote last Thursday in a letter to Finneran and state Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D).

Members acknowledged that there are other goals in redistricting besides incumbent protection. "[But] we believe they can be met without forcing any incumbent Member of the delegation to run against one another," they wrote.

The Boston Globe
No fast help for Meehan on district: Governor, speaker keep their distance
By Rick Klein and Glen Johnson
July 26, 2001

US Representative Martin T. Meehan's campaign to save his congressional district appears to be in danger.

Yesterday, Acting Governor Jane M. Swift indicated that she won't come to Meehan's aid in his fight to preserve the 5th District. And House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran said he will not propose a new map, despite Meehan's announcement this week that he will seek to remain in Congress rather than run for governor.

''The map speaks for itself,'' Finneran said of the House redistricting plan. ''It's going to take some strong evidence'' to persuade him to back a different version. Finneran met with eight Lowell - area state lawmakers yesterday, and the representatives asked that the plan be reworked based on Meehan's decision to seek reelection to Congress. The House redistricting plan, built on the presumption that Meehan would run for governor next year, would dismantle the existing 5th District in the Merrimack Valley to create a new, vacant seat in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Finneran said he told the representatives that he is open to suggestions regarding redistricting. But he said the burden would be on others, including the Senate, to offer specific suggestions.

He said that he doubted another plan could be drawn up to accommodate his stated goals: creating a majority-minority district, uniting communities with similar interests, and ensuring adequate representation for the fast-growing communities in the southeastern part of the state.

The House plan would force Meehan into a showdown with US Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat. A plan that pits incumbents against each other is highly unusual when a state isn't losing congressional seats.

But Swift yesterday dismissed the notion that lawmakers should avoid such a scenario. She said incumbency and clout should not be important factors in redrawing the state's districts based on the latest US Census data.

The congressional map should ''be designed not to forward the political ambitions of any individual, but in fact to represent the important issues and concerns of the people of the different geographic regions of Massachusetts,'' Swift said.

Swift said she believes that both the Merrimack Valley and Southeastern Massachusetts can be accommodated. ''The goal should be keeping the communities of interest together,'' she said, echoing Finneran's language.

Meehan senior adviser Will Keyser says Meehan would not comment yesterday ''out of respect for the ongoing process.''

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, said he would not seek out a role in redistricting discussions, but would be happy to participate if asked.

''This is not my responsibility, but I'm glad to add my voice,'' Kennedy said. ''I believe that Marty Meehan's been a very effective congressman, and I would hope he would be given an opportunity to serve, but these are matters that are going to be decided by the people and the workings of the district.''

Kennedy said he hopes the situation that would force two sitting congressmen into a race against each other ''would be worked out.''

Meehan and Tierney could get help from local officials, who are lobbying senators to keep their districts separate. Senate leaders have said they are unlikely to move forward on redistricting until after the Sept. 11 primary in the vacant 9th Congressional District.

Swift, a Republican governor in a state with an all Democratic congressional delegation, also downplayed suggestions that she would use her position in redistricting negotiations to advance GOP interests. Her role in the debate will also be limited because she lacks the GOP votes to sustain a veto.

Swift showed no sympathy for Meehan's predicament. ''This is a tough business,'' she said. ''Some times in order to meet your principles, people's political interests are sacrificed. That happens.''

The Boston Globe
Meehan vows fight for district: Gubernatorial bid is out; seeks new House term
By Frank Phillips
July 24, 2001

US Representative Martin T. Meehan announced yesterday he will abandon a run for governor and seek reelection to the House, saying he must try to salvage his Lowell-based congressional district and a campaign finance bill on Capitol Hill.

Meehan, who has been leading Democrats in recent gubernatorial polls, said House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's move to dismantle the 5th District has forced him to drop any consideration of a statewide race. He said he will pour his energy into preserving the Merrimack Valley seat.

''It is simply too important, today and tomorrow, that this region maintain separate representation and clout in Congress for me to walk away and seek higher office,'' said the five-term Democrat.

Meehan also said he needs to continue to fight for passage of the stalled national campaign finance bill, and said he could not simultaneously run for governor and devote the necessary energy to the measure.

''We have come too far, and we stand too close to historic change, for me to walk away,'' Meehan said at a press conference next to Lowell's Tsongas Arena on the banks of the Merrimack River.

Finneran blindsided Meehan 13 days ago by unveiling a redistricting map that would eliminate the congressman's seat and scatter its communities to nearby districts. Meehan appeared shellshocked and vexed by the choice that confronted him. He had hoped to wait until the August congressional break before deciding whether to run for governor.

Finneran's plan would force Meehan, if he wants to return to Congress, to run against fellow Democrat John Tierney of Salem in the 6th District. Meehan sidestepped questions yesterday as to whether he would run against Tierney if the plan survives, dismissing them as ''hypothetical.''

Meehan's prominent advocacy of campaign finance reform has irritated Beacon Hill leaders. The speaker released his map days after Meehan appeared at a Boston rally with Arizona Senator John McCain and called on the Legislature to fund the state Clean Elections Law, a public financing system that many legislative leaders revile.

Finneran, who has said he eliminated Meehan's district because he believed the congressman was running for governor, said yesterday he was open to talking to Meehan. But he restated his belief that Massachusetts needs to create a minority-dominated district in Boston and a new district for fast-growing Southeastern Massachusetts.

Senate President Thomas Birmingham, who is an all-but-declared candidate for governor, hinted the Senate may save Meehan's district. He told reporters the Senate will strongly consider incumbency and seniority as it draws its map, but added, ''Nobody has assurances.''

Meehan expressed confidence that the Legislature would reject the Finneran plan. ''This is a nine-inning game on redistricting, and we're probably in the bottom of the first inning,'' he said.

Meehan's withdrawal will have a major impact in the Democratic race for governor. Recent polls place Meehan and state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien at the front of the pack, and a University of Massachusets poll released last week gave him a 14 percentage point lead over Acting Governor Jane Swift. O'Brien led Swift by 9 points, and Birmingham edged Swift by 6 points.

While he had appeared for months to be leaning toward a race for governor, Meehan faced serious obstacles. He had planned to run under the voluntary Clean Elections Law, but Finneran and Birmingham have essentially put the law in limbo. Its future hangs on current House-Senate budget negotiations, and it is unclear whether the legislative leaders will provide the money the system needs.

Meanwhile Birmingham, who is not a Clean Elections candidate, has amassed about $3 million in donations.

Meehan faced another hurdle: winning the necessary 15 percent of delegates at the state party convention next year to qualify for the primary ballot. He seriously lagged other candidates in organizing for that effort.

In recent days, Meehan also was drawing criticism from local officials, who said his gubernatorial ambitions prompted Finneran to destroy the 5th District.

Meehan seemed to be answering those critics at yesterday's event in Lowell. Surrounded by area legislators and Nikki Tsongas, widow of senator and one-time 5th District congressman Paul Tsongas, Meehan pledged to devote himself to beating back moves on Beacon Hill to wipe out the seat.

''Many times over the last week or so, I've thought, `What would Paul Tsongas do in this situation?''' Meehan said. ''... I believe he would have stayed and fought. And that is what my heart tells me I have to do.''

Associated Press
Mayors rally against redistricting
By Leslie Miller
July 21, 2001

Mayors from the state's working-class cities north of Boston want to scuttle Democratic House Speaker Thomas Finneran's redistricting proposal.

The mayors, fearing their cities will lose clout under the proposal which eliminates the current 5th District, are scheduled to hold a rally Monday in Lynn City Hall. The mayors of Lynn, Peabody, Amesbury, Gloucester, Beverly and other cities are expected to attend.

The proposal splits Lynn from 6th District neighbors Peabody and Salem, and moves Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen and Dracut into the 6th, cities with which Peabody has little in common, Mayor Peter Torigian said.

"I'm sitting on my front steps and if I pick up a rock I can hit the Lynn line," Torigian said. "Peabody has played Lynn for 100 years, but we never crossed the border to play Dracut or Methuen."

Torigian has never set foot in Dracut in his entire life, he said.

Lowell and Lawrence officials have said they'll fight to keep the Merrimack Valley's 5th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan.

Finneran's proposal could pit Meehan against John Tierney if they both run for re-election.

"I don't think it makes sense to put two Democratic incumbents against each other," Torigian said.

It's rare for a politician to try and shake up an existing political order dominated by his own party as Finneran did, especially when a state's population changes are so minimal that a dramatic redistricting isn't required.

"The Speaker and the House Redistricting Committee view their plan as a first step, with the understanding that many people are going to want input as we move forward on this," said Finneran spokesman Charles Rasmussen. "Right now, it's just a plan."

The plan creates a new seat in southeastern Massachusetts by moving the 5th District 45 miles south.

It takes Fall River away from James McGovern's 3rd and Barney Frank's 4th districts and puts them in the new 5th.

"If you told me the whole idea could be dropped tomorrow and we could be given the old district back I'd take it in a minute," Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. said. "Having said that, it's hard to argue against a Bristol County seat."

It would take years for a rookie congressman representing the proposed 5th District to build the seniority and clout of the city's existing representatives, he said. Frank is in his 11th term and McGovern has gained a seat on the powerful Rules Committee, where he could exercise considerable influence for his district if the Democrats retake Congress, Lambert said.

Cambridge isn't happy about Finneran's plan either, said state Rep. Jarrett Barrios, a Democrat who represents the city.

One of Finneran's aims was to create a district dominated by minority voters. To do that, he removed Cambridge, Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston from the 8th, and added Lynn, creating an 8th District where 51.5 percent of voters are black, Latino or Asian.

"When you talk about a majority-minority district, you talk about one minority group," said U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, who represents the 8th, now 47.5 percent minority. "In Boston, it cannot be done."

Neither blacks, Latinos nor Asians have a big enough population to dominate a Congressional district in Massachusetts, he said.

Cambridge Mayor Anthony Galluccio wants the 8th District to stay the way it is -- and the way it's been since John F. Kennedy ran for Congress in 1946 with Galluccio's father as campaign secretary, said spokesman Terrence Smith.

One mayor who loves the plan is Brockton's John Yunits. The city, now split between the 9th and the 10th districts, would dominate the proposed 9th District.

The Herald News
Proposed area seems catered to ethnic group
By Michael W. Freeman
July 18, 2001

Although the state is still months away from finalizing plans for new congressional districts, the idea of a district centered on Bristol County is generating a lot of interest within this region's large Portuguese population.

There's a growing feeling that this district will present a rare opportunity to elect a Portuguese-American candidate, who would become the second in Congress, after U.S. Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif.

Frank Baptista, who hosts the radio program "Voice of the Immigrant," said his listeners began showing tremendous interest in the district as soon as it was announced last week.

"It's a unique opportunity for a Portuguese-American," Baptista said. "This new district would be predominantly Portuguese-speaking."

"The people I have talked to really like the idea," said Antonio Teixeira, co-chairman of the Portuguese-American Organizing Coalition, which seeks to elect either Portuguese-American candidates, or candidates sympathetic to their goals and ideas.

"If it is possible to back up a candidate, we will," he said. "We're probably going to have to be organized to do that. I'm not sure yet how we'll go about it, but I would like to get some Portuguese organizations together and see who is the best candidate."

There are several local politicians being mentioned as possible candidates, including state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, the highest ranking Portuguese-American in the state; state Rep. Michael J. Rodrigues, D-Westport, and his colleague, state Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford.

Still, there's a question of whether or not these candidates could command the loyalty of a critical block of voters: Portuguese-Americans themselves.

"It doesn't matter if you're Portuguese or any other nationality," said City Councilor Alfredo P. Alves, who has been winning and losing City Council races since the late 1980s. "Just because you have a district with a heavy Portuguese population, the Portuguese have proven over and over that they don't vote for people just because their last name is Portuguese."

He noted that in 1991, state Rep. Robert Correia challenged Mayor John Mitchell for the city's top job, and Mitchell won easily.

"That doesn't make a difference," Alves said.

Teixeira agreed, saying it's one reason why his organization sometimes endorses candidates who are not Portuguese but are strong on issues that the community cares about.

"Portuguese people are not politically oriented," he said. "Usually, we fought for the best candidate, but not for the ethnicity."

Still, he added, "If you give me a choice, and they're both qualified, I certainly will pick a candidate with a Portuguese name."

Rodrigues has already indicated that he won't rule out a bid for the congressional seat, and on Tuesday, Cabral did the same.

"I would not close the door to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Cabral said. "I think it is an excellent opportunity."

While stressing that "I love what I'm doing, and that's my first priority and my first focus right now," Cabral added, "Would I rule it out at this time? I would not rule it out. At some point, I will look at it closely, once those lines have been approved. What greater honor is there than to serve in the United States Congress, which in my opinion is the greatest democratic body in the world?"

Still, both Cabral and Rodrigues said they would not run as representatives of the Portuguese community.

"I think that probably the Portuguese-American community would be very excited about this, and they ought to be excited," Cabral said. "It is a great opportunity for the Portuguese-Americans, but that's not enough to win a seat in southeastern Massachusetts. The candidate, Portuguese-American or not, has to speak to the issues and easily build bridges to other ethnic groups and communities."

"I don't think ethnicity should be a reason to vote for any candidate," Rodrigues said. "It is an opportunity to put a Portuguese-American in Congress, but that shouldn't be the reason people vote for anyone."

On the plus side, Rodrigues said candidates, regardless of their ethnicity, would have to pay attention to issues that Portuguese residents care about.

"In the proposed new district, the predominant ethnicity is Portuguese," Rodrigues said. "So whether the new Congressperson from this district is a Portuguese-American or not, they're going to be very versed in issues important to Portuguese-Americans."

Rodrigues and Cabral said it's natural for an ethnic group to cheer one of its own. In 1988, when former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis ran for president, his campaign received tremendous support from this country's Greek-American community.

"In any ethnicity, people that are proud of their heritage and culture take pride when they see any person of their heritage get elected," Rodrigues said. "I would never suggest to anyone to vote for me because I'm a Portuguese-American, but this would be an opportunity for the Portuguese-American community if there was a candidate to support."

Cabral said the winning candidate can't rely solely on his ethnic background to bring in votes. "Whoever wins has to be to build bridges to other communities, and work well within the diversity that southeastern Massachusetts represents," he said. "The Portuguese-Americans, or those of Portuguese descent, have the same concerns that most people in southeastern Massachusetts have: good jobs, a better future for themselves and their kids. We have a lot more in common with other groups."

Alves noted that even though more than 60 percent of the people living in Fall River and New Bedford are Portuguese, that doesn't translate into votes on election day. Neither city has a Portuguese mayor, state senator or congressman right now. Fall River does not have a Portuguese majority on the City Council, and hasn't since voters defeated five incumbent councilors of Portuguese descent back in 1995.

"I don't think there are seats for Portuguese or Irish or French," Alves said. "There are seats for those who have the ability to run and be elected."

Among the city's Portuguese residents, "Those who vote take their politics very seriously," Alves said. "They want to see what the candidates can do for the community in general, and the Portuguese have always paid close attention to that. If they deserve their vote, they will vote for them."

Pacheco is now running in the state's 9th Congressional District, in a special election in September to replace the late Congressman Joseph Moakley.

The new redistricting plan announced by House Speaker Thomas Finneran, D-Mattapan, last week would move Taunton from the 9th District into the new 5th District, which would cover this county.

If Pacheco wins the primary, Finneran has indicated that he would consider moving Taunton back into the 9th District. If Pacheco loses the primary, he could run in the new 5th District.

Associated Press
Meehan against plan
July 18, 2001

- Rep. Martin T. Meehan, facing the elimination of his Lowell-based 5th Congressional District, made a rare visit to Beacon Hill to lobby House and Senate leaders, but came away with no assurances.

A redistricting plan unveiled by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran last week would wipe out the current 5th District, relocating it in southeastern Massachusetts on the Rhode Island border, and including New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton and Attleboro.

The Senate is expected to outline its own redistricting proposal by mid-September.

Meehan has said he has not decided whether to seek a sixth term in Congress, or run for governor.

Monday, Meehan met separately with Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, reportedly to ask them to retain the current Merrimack Valley 5th District.

"I had a good discussion with the speaker," Meehan said afterward. "It was very cordial and constructive and I look forward to more discussions."

Finneran has said that he dismantled Meehan's district because he believed the Democratic congressman was going to run for governor.

"There was no specific request made by Marty of me, or by me of Marty," Finneran said after Monday's meeting. "We did not get into specifics as to what if anything could or should give."

Birmingham, who also is running for governor, said after his meeting with Meehan that he is open to arguments that the 5th District should be maintained.

"Everything is in flux," Birmingham said. "We will take our own independent look at this."

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
July 16, 2001

Meehan's Bad Week.

While House GOP leaders in Washington last week blocked Rep. Marty Meehan's (D-Mass.) prized campaign finance reform plan, his Bay State colleagues offered scant support in his clash with state legislators over redistricting.

Members of the state's all-Democratic House delegation said they would not help Meehan restore district lines, threatened in a plan by state House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D), until Meehan announces whether he intends to run for governor next year.

"Until we know if he's running for governor, there's nothing to fight over," one House Member told the Boston Globe on the condition of anonymity.

Last week Finneran unveiled a House map that would eliminate Meehan's Lowell-based district, which is northwest of Boston, and replace it with one in the southeastern part of the state. The Finneran plan could force Meehan into the district of Rep. John Tierney (D), who doesn't intend to back down from the possibility of a Member-versus-Member primary with Meehan.

"I'm running for the 6th district, and I'm the incumbent there," he declared.

For his part, Meehan has said he will decide this summer whether to challenge Gov. Jane Swift (R) in 2002.

Additionally, the Finneran plan would force Rep. Mike Capuano (D) to run in a majority-minority district.

The Herald News
GOP sees gold in redistricting plan
By Micheal W. Freeman
July 15, 2001

On Friday, though, Larrivee was on the phone to the office of Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, the Democratic leader of the state House of Representatives, to let him know just how happy he was.

"As a Republican state committeeman, I called his office to tell him that," said Larrivee, a resident of Dartmouth. "I said he's done an extraordinary job. It will benefit southeastern Massachusetts tremendously."

Larrivee was thrilled with the new congressional redistricting plan that Finneran unveiled. It would create a new district centered around Bristol County.

Although the plan was drafted by a Redistricting Committee with a Democratic majority, it has generated tremendous excitement among local Republicans, who believe it creates great opportunities to elect one of their own next year.

"How will it affect the GOP?" Larrivee said. "I think it has some extraordinary ramifications, if you look at it. This could be a very, very exciting race. Right now, I wouldn't say the Democrats have a lock on this at all. It will be up in the air. That's why I called Finneran's office. I said, 'Oh wow, this excites me.'"

Ian L. Bayne, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Society, was already predicting that the GOP would win the seat, if they run the right candidate. He already has a front-runner in mind.

"The new 5th District would be a tremendous district for someone like Sheriff (Thomas) Hodgson," Bayne said. "He'd have a tremendous opportunity. I think he'd win."

Hodgson, who has been Bristol County's sheriff since 1997, has already indicated that he loves his job but is willing to consider a possible congressional bid. Hodgson called speculation about his bid "flattering" and "humbling."

Bayne noted that Hodgson has already demonstrated wide appeal among the district's voters. The 5th District covers all of Bristol County, plus 10 communities in Norfolk and Plymouth counties. In 1998, Hodgson became the first Republican in generations to win a Bristol County race. He's the Republican Party's only county officeholder.

The towns in Norfolk and Plymouth counties, Bayne said, are even more solidly Republican, including Lakeville, Marion and Rochester, giving the GOP a unique opportunity here.

"As far as the district in general, I'm obviously pretty happy with the changes," Bayne said. "It's always a good opportunity when you have an open seat, and Sheriff Hodgson has done a terrific job in the jails down there. I don't see anyone he couldn't beat. I think if Hodgson wanted to run, he would win."

City Councilor Alfredo P. Alves added that the GOP has history on its side.

"Look at what happened in the last century," he said. "For more than 60 years, Fall River was represented in Congress by a Republican."

Between 1924 and 1966, Fall River was in a district represented by Republican Joseph Martin. From 1967 until 1983, another Republican, Margaret Heckler, held the seat.

Heckler lost in 1982 to Democrat Barney Frank. Then in 1992, Fall River was split between two districts. Frank continues to represent the city's North End in the 4th District, but from 1992 until 1996, the South End -- located in the 3rd Congressional District -- was represented by Republican Peter I. Blute.

"It can be done. I believe that," Alves said. "It depends on who the candidate is."

Not everyone thinks Hodgson is the ideal GOP nominee, though.

Alves said he believes Hodgson would make a great candidate, but doubts he'll actually run.

"I don't think he will be a candidate," Alves said. "I would be happy if he would be a candidate. Certainly he would have my support. But knowing what I know of him, he's too much in love with his job."

Larrivee, who called for an investigation of the Bristol County House of Corrections after a riot on Easter Day, said the GOP could also look to the two Republican state representatives from Attleboro, John A. Lepper and Betty Poirier.

"Everyone is talking about Tom Hodgson being the only one, but that's wrong," Larrivee said. "Besides, my feeling is that if you have a territory like this, young candidates might come forward. There could be young lawyers who would be willing to run, because now they have at least half a shot."

Alves, who said he has no intention of running, agreed there's plenty of time for the GOP to find a good candidate.

"I would like to think there is always an opportunity for the GOP anywhere, provided the GOP brings forward a meaningful and colorful candidate," he said. "There's all kinds of interesting people around here."

Ralph Saulnier, vice-chairman of the New Bedford Republican City Committee, said he likes the idea of a Hodgson candidacy, since the sheriff has a solid base in Bristol County.

"You certainly have to look at Tom as a potential candidate," he said. "His chances would be good."

The bottom line, though, is that the party needs to begin fielding candidates for every office in the state, Saulnier said.

"I think the Republican Party could and should run in every district, whether there is an incumbent or not," he said. "The fact that we field a candidate who expresses a Republican viewpoint is critical. When we field seats without someone to represent our political philosophy, we're doing a disservice to the voters."

The Boston Globe
Give credit to Finneran
Adrian Walker
July 12, 2001


 
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran never seems happier, more at peace, than when he has a fight looming.
 
So he had a lot to be happy about yesterday, because the redistricting map he unleashed on the state's congressional delegation is sure to prompt weeks, or months, of warfare.
 
At least one feature of the newly drawn districts, though, gives Finneran a slice of moral high ground. Under the new map, Massachusetts could for the first time have a district in which a majority of residents are people of color. He is right when he says Massachusetts does not now have a district that a minority candidate can win, and right to try to do something about it.
 
''What the hell am I the speaker of the House for if I can't do something when I see an opportunity?'' he asked yesterday. ''What am I doing up here if this isn't a moment to be seized?''
 
This state's shabby record of minority empowerment is one of those things few people like to talk about, especially liberal Democrats. For all the lip service - in Finneran's phrase - paid to promoting black, Latino, and Asian candidates, the record reads like this: one black US senator (a Republican), zero congressmen, and zero statewide winners.
 
Don't try to tell me about the 8th, the district that now has the largest concentration of minority voters and is alleged to be winnable for a black or Latino candidate. From all available evidence, it's not.
 
Mel King was the city's first black mayoral finalist, in 1983. In 1986, running for an open seat in the 8th District, he got less than 10 percent of the vote. Charles Yancey has failed to approach double digits in two tries in the 8th. In fact, his 5 percent tally in 1998 exceeded expectations.
 
Even for a state that has historically lacked a huge minority population, the failure of the liberal establishment to deliver the inclusion it has preached is jarring.
 
Finneran insisted yesterday that the redistricting had been driven by three goals. One was the desire to create a minority district. The second was to unite Southeastern Massachusetts, where New Bedford and Fall River have been separated for decades. And the third was to protect incumbent congressmen.
 
Not surprisingly, the majority-minority district was not the aspect of the new map that captured the attention of State House insiders yesterday. Rather, the questions that resounded in the building were about Finneran's drastic remaking of the district represented by Martin T. Meehan of Lowell, and what prompted his apparent punishment.
 
But Meehan's fate - either he'll run for governor or he won't - is less important in the long run than finally getting a delegation that represents the rapidly changing makeup of the region.
 
Lawrence DiCara, the attorney and former city councilor advising the redistricting committee, made an important point when he noted that the portions of Boston and the surrounding areas in the new 8th have the fastest-growing minority populations in the state. While the new district would be 51.7 percent minority now, that population is projected to rise to 60 percent within seven or eight years.
 
Population numbers don't necessarily translate politically. This area will not see a black or Latino congresswoman until voter registration and turnout increase substantially. No act of the Legislature can force that. But opportunity matters, and this represents an opportunity.
 
It is just the beginning of the debate, of course. Meehan may not run for governor, which could change everything about redistricting, and the Senate will surely have its own ideas. But it's a start.
 
Finneran said yesterday a minority district would rank as a breakthrough, a ''legacy,'' if it happens, because its impact would be lasting, and because it would represent a triumph of action and achievement over rhetoric. That would be one development that's long overdue.
 
Adrian Walker can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
 
 

The Herald News
The race is on for new House seat 
By Michael W. Freeman
July 12, 2001

Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. says he's out. So is Congressman Barney Frank, while state Rep. Michael J. Rodrigues, D-Westport, and Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson are weighing their options.

With the announcement on Wednesday that the Legislature might create a new congressional district centered around Bristol County -- and without an incumbent -- speculation about who would run has come fast and furious.

Although there's been speculation in the past that Lambert might run for Congress one day, the mayor said he's happy where he is now.

"I'm very happy being mayor of Fall River," he said. "I think I've got a great job, and I'm grateful to have it. Right now, I think this is the place where I can have the greatest impact on my city."

Lambert said his top choice to take the new 5th District would be Frank, who has represented Fall River since 1982.

"I spoke to Barney this morning, and actually encouraged him to consider running out of this seat," Lambert said. "This is where his base has been for the last 20 years. He's been very good to this district. I would hope he would continue to represent this district and run it."

Frank, though, said he's not inclined to do that.

From 1982 until 1992, Fall River was Frank's territory in the 4th Congressional District. In 1992, the city was split between his district and the 3rd Congressional District, now represented by Democrat James P. McGovern.

But the new redistricting plan, unveiled by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, D-Mattapan, would move McGovern's district to his home base in Greater Worcester, while the 4th District would be reshaped to cover the Boston suburbs, including Frank's home base of Newton.

Frank said he would stay in the 4th District.

"I'm totally surprised by it," he said of the new map. "I had not seen it coming. It was nothing I sought. I am very happy with my current district and have grown very happy representing Fall River for 20 years."

But Frank added, "On the other hand, I think it's the wishes of the people of southeastern Massachusetts what's most important here, not what any of the politicians want. I worry about people saying, 'We created it for a southeastern Massachusetts person.'"

Since he lives in Newton, Frank said he would stay in his new district. The communities in the new 4th District -- including Cambridge, Brookline and Newton -- are Democratic strongholds.

"I don't think my career is at risk here," he said.

Frank said he would ask his constituents what they want.

"It's a fundamental decision for the state to make now," he said. "It's a proposal to make some fairly drastic changes. At this point, I'm ready to let the public speak and see what they say."

With Lambert and Frank out of the picture, the focus has been on state Sen. Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford, and state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton.

Montigny has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor, running on a ticket with Senate President Thomas Birmingham, D-Chelsea, who is seeking the governor's office next year.

Montigny has also indicated his interest in running for Senate president once Birmingham steps down.

Pacheco is now running in a special election in the 9th Congressional District, to fill the seat held by the late Joseph Moakley.

Taunton is now in the 9th District, but the remap puts the Silver City in the new 5th District. If Pacheco wins the primary, the House might shift Taunton back into the 9th District. If he loses the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, Pacheco could run in the new district.

Pacheco's candidacy could also be a rallying point for this region's large Portuguese population.

Two other candidates said they're weighing their options.

Asked if he would run, Rodrigues said, "It's possible, but it's too soon to speculate. I'm not ruling anything out, but I'm not ruling anything in."

Hodgson would make an intriguing candidate -- and possibly the only prominent one -- for the Republicans. In 1997, he was appointed to the seat by former Gov. William F. Weld, to replace retiring Sheriff David Nelson.

A year later, Hodgson won the seat outright, becoming the first Republican in decades to win a majority of the votes in Bristol County.

Hodgson said he recognizes the strengths he would bring to the race, and likes the idea of giving a conservative voice to the Bay State's all-Democratic congressional delegation.

"I recognize, strategically, the advantage of having virtually all of the cities and towns in Bristol County in the district," he said.

"That's pretty much a majority of where I ran, as a sitting county official who was blessed with the support of the voters," Hodgson said.

Hodgson said he finds speculation that he might run "humbling to me, and I'm flattered by that. But the underlying message is perhaps that people are looking for balance in terms of our representation from Massachusetts. We need to have the more conservative philosophies and opinions involved in the debate."

Hodgson said he hasn't yet "given any personal consideration to running at this point. I do love my job as sheriff."

But Hodgson acknowledged that the state Republican Party would probably encourage him to run, and he's ready to listen.

"Probably one of my strengths and beliefs is when you're in elected office, you always sit down and listen to anybody who has points to make or arguments to advance," he said.

The new 5th District would include every community in Bristol County, including Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and Attleboro.

Four towns in Norfolk County -- Foxboro, Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham -- would also be in the new district, as well as six towns in Plymouth County: Carver, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Middleboro and Rochester.

In all likelihood, the district would lean to the Democrats, though perhaps not overwhelmingly. The communities from both Norfolk and Plymouth counties are as close as the state gets to Republican territory.

State Rep. Robert Correia, D-Fall River, who helped draft the new lines as a member of the House Redistricting Committee, said if a Fall River candidate wins the seat, it would be the first time this city has sent someone to Congress since William S. Greene won in 1912.

"This is going to be a wide open district, and that makes it even more exciting for our people," Correia said.

The Herald News
House changes start political maneuvering
By Michael W. Freeman
July 12, 2001

The state's first new redistricting plan would be drawn so that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern would no longer represent this region, while creating an entirely new district centered almost entirely around Bristol County.

This would be the first time in nearly a century that Fall River, New Bedford, Attleboro and Taunton were linked in the same congressional district.

If approved by the Legislature, the new 5th Congressional District would have no incumbent, creating a windfall for every ambitious politician in the region.

Frank cleared the way for them on Wednesday, saying he would run in the new 4th Congressional District, centered around Boston's suburbs, including Cambridge, Brookline and his home base of Newton.

"If the public believes that it would be better to have a southeastern Massachusetts district, I wouldn't take that as a personal attack," Frank said. "I think we should all abide by their wishes."

While several local political leaders expressed disappointment at the notion of losing Frank and McGovern -- and the considerable seniority and clout they have in Congress -- few could restrain their enthusiasm for the idea of a southeastern Massachusetts district.

State Rep. Robert Correia, D-Fall River, who serves on the House Redistricting Committee and was instrumental in getting the lines drawn, hailed the 5th District as a dramatic breakthrough for this region.

"This is what dreams are made of," Correia said. "It's a brand new, open seat, one that holds southeastern Massachusetts together. We would no longer be the tail end of any other district. We would be an integral part of this district."

Correia added that, "This isn't really anything new. From 1859 until 1913, this seat was unified, and it actually looked like they took turns electing someone from Fall River and then someone from New Bedford."

For the past 10 years, Fall River has been divided between two congressional districts. In the 3rd District, McGovern has Somerset, Swansea, Westport, Dartmouth and the South End of Fall River. In the 4th District, Frank represents Freetown, Dighton, Berkley, Rehoboth and Fall River's North End.

Under the new proposal, McGovern's district would drop Greater Fall River and would be centered around his home base of Worcester and other towns in central Massachusetts.

The new 4th District keeps Frank in the Boston suburbs.

The new 5th District would include all 20 cities and towns in Bristol County, plus four towns in Norfolk County -- Foxboro, Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham -- and six towns in Plymouth County. They include Carver, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Middleboro and Rochester.

The plan has a long way to go before it becomes a reality. The House does not plan to vote on the map until after Sept. 11, the date of a special primary in the state's current 9th Congressional District.

The district's incumbent, Democrat Joseph Moakley, died earlier this year, and there's a large field of candidates vying to succeed him, including state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, who lives in Taunton. That city is now in the 9th District, but the remap puts Taunton in the new 5th District.

"In deference to the race going on for Joe Moakley's seat, we're not going to take this up until Sept. 11," Correia said. "We wanted that to be settled first."

If Pacheco wins the primary, Taunton could be shifted back into Moakley's old district, Correia said.

"It could change. There could be tweaking here and there," he said.

Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. had urged the Redistricting Committee to maintain the status quo, and keep the city divided between two districts. On Wednesday, the mayor said he had a mixed reaction to the plan.

Lambert said he regrets the loss of Frank and McGovern, and the influence they bring to the table -- something a freshman lawmaker wouldn't have.

The two congressmen have worked together to bring federal funding to the city for its combined sewer overflow project, for a study of the redesign of Route 79 and Davol Street, and other critical local programs.

"It's certainly a dramatic redrawing of the lines," Lambert said. "From my perspective, I think there's a real short-term negative impact to losing both Barney Frank and Jim McGovern. They have been among the most effective team any city could have. Their seniority is very difficult to replace."

Still, Lambert couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the idea of a compact southeastern Massachusetts seat, something he lobbied for during the last redistricting process in 1991, when Fall River was first split between two districts.

"I understand what this plan tries to do," Lambert said. "It's hard to argue against it, despite my practical feelings about keeping Barney and Jim in place. I think long term, it can have some benefit to the city and the region. We're growing in numbers and political clout. I'm not looking to obstruct it from happening."

State Rep. Michael J. Rodrigues, D-Westport, who is considering a possible bid for the seat, took a similar view. On one hand, Rodrigues said he regrets losing Frank.

"Barney Frank is the best and smartest congressman in Washington, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I think that means something. We have developed relationships with our congressmen. We've worked closely with our delegation. You lose that working relationship. We'll have to start from ground zero."

But Rodrigues added, "It's hard to argue against these lines. Now we have an opportunity to elect someone from Fall River to Congress. That's no reflection on who we've had representing us, but I think it's about time that we have our own congressional district."

Correia said this city hasn't elected a congressman from Fall River since William S. Greene served from 1898 until 1913.

"This is the first time in 87 years that someone from southeastern Massachusetts, whoever he or she may be, will have the opportunity to run for a congressional seat under this plan," Correia said.

The plan still has to be approved by the House, and the Senate will draft its own redistricting plan. Both versions will have to be merged into one. A final map is not likely to be approved until late this year, or early in 2002.

Still, Correia is very excited about this new map.

"I have absolutely no problems with the congressmen that have represented us. Both of them toed the line and made it work," Correia said.

"But with all the changing dynamics in our area, I think this may be the time for southeastern Massachusetts to be able to stay contiguous, unified, and send one of its own to Congress. This is a dramatic plan. It's an exciting plan, and one that I'm sure will generate a great deal of debate, but I think it's one worth looking at. Our time really has come."


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