If you listen to the experts, it appears to be pretty much a foregone conclusion that the State of Massachusetts is going to lose one of its ten congressional seats when the census requires new districts to be drawn for the election of 2012. The Boston Globe explains:
Massachusetts almost certainly will lose one of its 10 congressional districts after next year’s census, the result of a long-term population shift that is giving Southern and Western states more political power in Washington at the expense of the Northeast, say specialists who have been poring over data in advance of the 2010 count.
Long-term economic and demographic shifts in favor of warmer climates with less expensive housing are to blame for the state’s slower growth, and thus the loss of a congressional district, according to estimates. Massachusetts’ population grew by just 2.3 percent from 2000 to 2008, compared with 8 percent nationally, a disparity that is expected to continue next year and beyond.
“We did five different scenarios projecting the population forward, and in each of those five scenarios, Massachusetts would lose a seat,’’ said Kimball Brace of Election Data Services, a political consulting firm in Washington.
According to these maps from the Swing State Project, this is the congressional districts as they exist now. Notice how in the last redistricting they had to stretch Olver and Neal's districts more than half-way across the state in order to preserve both their seats.
The pressure will be overwhelming once one seat is eliminated to simply solidify Western Massachusetts into a single district. This is how the Swing State Project imagines the likeliest outcome to look like, with their explanation:
The redistricting process in Massachusetts is expected to be run by the Democrats in 2011-2012, and even if Gov. Deval Patrick manages to lose to a Republican in 2010, it won't make much difference for the sake of district maps; all ten congressional incumbents are left-of-center Democrats.
Seeing that population growth was weakest in western Massachusetts, and that Rep. John Olver (D-Amherst) will be 76 at the 2012 election, it seemed logical to combine western Mass's two districts and force Olver against his then-63-year-old colleague, Richard Neal of Springfield. Most think Olver would retire if pitted against Neal.
Not everyone is unhappy about the potential changes. Howie Carr of the Boston Herald thinks it is good that we are losing members of congress, considering who the members of congress are:
The good news is, Massachusetts is probably going to lose one of its 10 congressmen in the upcoming national redistricting.
The bad news is, we’re not going to lose two.
The reason for this political RIF is that the Bay State’s population is not growing - what a surprise. I mean, what’s not to like about this wonderful commonwealth, at least if you’re a pinky-ring union thug, a trust-funded moonbat, a hack out on a fake disability pension or a freeloading illegal alien with an anchor baby?
Alas for our solons, almost everyone in Massachusetts not on the dole is fleeing. That’s a problem - for the political class, anyway.
The problem with our current crop of limousine liberals is that they’ve pretty much aged themselves out of the active criminal class. The ever-worthless John Olver turns 73 next month, Barney Frank (D-Fannie Mae) is 69. Bill Delahunt (D-Venezuela and Club Hedonism) is 68. Fast Eddie Markey, the “dean” of the delegation, is slowing down at 63, and even Richie Neal has reached 60.
Most likely nominee for the stew pot: Olver, from Amherst. He’s the most ancient and the least relevant. The problem is that 1st District of his. The Golden West he represents is so sparsely populated that in the last redistricting, to make the numbers work, the map-drawers had to run him all the way east to the outskirts of Lowell.
Whichever district is eliminated, the remaining nine solons will each have to pick up about 75,000 people. The 1st District is just too far west to allow the inside-128 solons to recruit more voters to replace the ones who are voting with their feet by the thousands.
I agree that if it comes down to an Olver vs. Neal battle that Olver would probably retire. But what if he didn't? What a battle of the titans that would be, with Neal representing the corrupt but more conservative southern branch of the local Democrat party, while the less corrupt but flaming liberal northern Valley Democrats would rally behind Olver. What if neither Olver nor Neal ran for the Western Mass seat? So many Democrats would flock to compete for the extremely rare open seat that it would be easier to speculate who wouldn't run. Most Western Mass Democrat office holders, past and present, with any credibility would be considered potential contenders.
The field is much thinner when one considers credible Republicans. Perhaps former Governor Jane Swift (above) who ran against Olver early in her career would take advantage of the redistricting to run for the seat again. Another former GOP congressional aspirant is the popular Clerk Magistrate of Hampden Superior Court, former Senator Brian Lees, who once ran against Neal's predecessor Eddie Boland. Maybe an open seat would tempt Lees to try again for a seat in Congress. Of course if Neal's 2010 challenger Dr. Jay Fleitman does well (or beats Neal and becomes the incumbent) then all bets are off.
But whatever goes down, it promises to be political entertainment at its finest.
Out the window at Sam's.
Tree pruning at Pulaski Park.
Spiderboy and Rhythom at the Amherst Survival Center.
Flower power at UMass.
Last Saturday a stage was set up on the original site of the Woodstock festival and a number of survivors from the show 40 years earlier performed. Just an exercise in nostalgia of course, but this beautiful version of 'Wooden Ships' by Jefferson Starship made it all worthwhile.
Go ride the music.