One is a high-ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee while the other claims a similar status on the equally important Ways and Means Committee. Representative John Olver of Amherst and Representative Richie Neal of Springfield have made it clear – they are running for reelection come 2012. These declarations make their intentions clear in the face of the likely loss of a Massachusetts seat after the official calculations of 2010 Census data. Redistricting the Commonwealth from ten to nine districts with ten incumbent members will be a challenge. There were rumors that the 74 year old Olver – whose district of over 100 communities currently covers 40% of the state touching the NY/CT/Vermont/NH borders from Pittsfield to Pepperell – might retire. Not so. Although they will be in the minority for the 112th Congress – others in the delegation see their own uniqueness and power and apparantly will run for reelection. Barney Frank will still hold a ranking status on the Financial Services Committee; Ed Markey holds sway in the Environment and Techology areas; Niki Tsongas who sits on the strategic Armed Services Committee while only in office since 2007 is the only woman in the delegation. Still there are other possibilities. Will Michael Capuano lessen the redistricting tension and seek the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in a run against Scott Brown in 2012?
Despite calls for an independent redistricting commission, the legislative leadership feels confident in the ability of the state Senate and House to complete the task. Senator Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst and Rep Michael Moran, D-Boston are in charge and have promised full transparency during the process with plans to holding hearings in each congressional district and an accessible-to-the-public informational web-site. All General Court districts as well as the congressional districts are subject to redistricting.
The official Census results will be revealed on Tuesday. Remember this as this process rolls out – the notorius term “gerrymandering” was born here in Massachusetts when in 1812 Governor Elbridge Gerry and his legislative minions created a contorted but politically friendly state senate district from Chelsea to Salisbury that looked more like a salamander than a coherent district. The rest is history. We’ll be following the process with great interest – remembering what nearly happened to the Fifth Congressional District when Speaker Finneran approved eliminating the district as we knew it and the fight that ensued. And that was without the loss a a seat!