While many supporters of Niki Tsongas were upset about the Lowell Sun’s endorsement of Jon Golnik, some community leaders – men and women who think more about the strategic needs of the region than they do politics – were appalled. For at least a century, Lowell has been the epicenter of the Fifth Congressional District, a status that has been of great benefit to the city and the surrounding towns. These community leaders realized that had the voters heeded the advice of the local newspaper, the future of the Fifth District would have been placed in jeopardy.
Every ten years, Lowell’s Congressional primacy has been threatened by redistricting. Back in early 1992, the late Paul Sullivan, in a Sun column excoriating the city’s legislative delegation for failing to fight vigorously enough against a redistricing plan that would “cut the Greater Lowell area up like a piece of sushi” explained why retaining Lowell as the center of the Congressional district was so critical:
This city was taken from the mouth of despair as a result of the revitalization that occurred in the 1970’s and 80’s. And that revitalization was solely the result of funds that were pumped in by the federal government. It was no accident that the federal government had chosen Lowell as its site for an urban national park. The city was the hub of a congressional district. In that role, Lowell was the focus of attention of the congressmen that represented it.
In the summer of 2001 while then Congressman Marty Meehan was contemplating a run for governor, Greater Lowell was staggered by a redistricting plan released by house speaker Tom Finneran that would have dismembered the Fifth District. Meehan immediately dropped his gubernatorial bid, announced he would run for reelection to Congress and the entire region pulled together to “save the Fifth.” Once again, Lowell dodged the redistricting bullet.
With redistricting looming again in the aftermath of the 2010 census and the near certainty that the Commonwealth will lose one of its ten Congressional seats, the election of a novice Republican like Jon Golnik would almost guarantee that the Democratically dominated state legislature would obliterate the Fifth District to preserve the other nine held by Democratic incumbents. Reduced to an appendage to an existing Congressional district dominated by a distant city, Greater Lowell would suffer from diminished clout and sustain longterm harm from a disruption of Federal resources.
Fortunately, Niki Tsongas was overwhelmingly reelected and given her relative seniority and her status as the only woman in the Massachusetts delegation, the nightmare scenario described above is unlikely to occur. That would not have been the case had the voters of the Fifth District heeded the advice of the Lowell Sun and elected Jon Golnik.
But the leadership of today’s Lowell Sun does not think or act strategically. The paper’s “Being represented by nobody would be better than being represented by Niki” stance is emblematic of its reactionary approach to most issues. Still, it’s evident that the Sun’s leadership has felt this community criticism over the Golnik editorial. How else do you explain the pathetic editorial on Thursday that sought to justify the paper’s actions by pointing out that the candidates endorsed by the paper – almost all of whom lost the election – received more votes than their opponents within the Sun’s circulation area.
Echoing its slanted coverage during the Congressional race, the Sun’s apologia completely ignored the fact that none of the Congressional candidates it endorsed won anywhere. But the entire premise of the newspaper’s argument – that losing candidates prevailed within the paper’s circulation area – showed how backwards-looking the newspaper’s leadership truly is. The Sun contentedly counts the number of papers it prints each day while the rest of the news-delivery world zooms past on the boundary-less and border-less internet, leaving the local newspaper to fade further into irrelevance with each passing day.