Mass. Congressional Hopefuls Eye New Districts
BOSTON (AP) — Potential challengers to Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation are scoping out nine newly redrawn U.S. House districts as they try to map out their own path to victory next year.
The redistricting map, which is expected to be formally approved by state lawmakers on Tuesday, cuts the number of congressional seats in Massachusetts from 10 to nine — a consequence of the state’s sluggish population growth compared with other states.
Even though one incumbent, U.S. Rep. John Olver, has decided not to seek re-election, the nine remaining members are facing district lines that look, in some cases, very different from the districts they now represent.
The shifting district lines are giving new hope for candidates looking for a foothold to oust sitting members of Congress.
The new districts are especially tantalizing for the Massachusetts Republican Party — which hasn’t held a seat in the U.S. House since the state’s last two GOP representatives were defeated in the 1996 elections.
Some higher profile Republicans already have said they’re planning to launch campaigns in two of the new districts.
Former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei is planning to run in a redrawn district currently represented by Rep. John Tierney of Salem. Tisei, who lives in Wakefield, ran for lieutenant governor last year on a ticket with GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker.
The new district, which picks up Tewksbury, Billerica and part of Andover, overlaps with parts of Tisei’s old Senate district including Wakefield, Reading and Lynnfield.
Tisei said the dark mood of voters could make it harder for incumbents to hold onto their seats next year.
“What we have in Washington isn’t working and this is the best opportunity to make a change,” he said. “People are looking for leaders to go down to Washington and do the things that need to be done to put the country back on track.”
Tisei isn’t the only Republican in the race.
Lawyer Bill Hudak of Danvers, who ran against Tierney last year and lost, has said he’ll try again, forcing a Republican primary contest.
“We’re thrilled that after months of delay the redistricting committee has not only recommended maintaining the district intact, but added three towns consistent with the conservative nature of the North Shore area,” Hudak said in a statement.
Republicans are hoping that Tierney is vulnerable. Earlier this year, Tierney’s wife served a 30-day prison sentence for helping file false tax returns for her fugitive brother.
A spokeswoman for Tierney said he looked forward to campaigning in the communities added to the district.
“It will be interesting to see how whomever emerges from the Republican primary will defend the position of House Republicans, including slashing Pell grants for families who need help sending their kids to college,” Tierney spokeswoman Kathryn Prael said.
Republicans also see a potential opening in a redrawn district currently represented by Rep. Barney Frank of Newton.
Frank is losing the Democratic stronghold of New Bedford while picking up towns like Hopkinton, Attleboro and Rehoboth and holding onto his core supporters in Brookline, Newton and Wellesley.
Still, the changes could be big enough to give a potential opening for Republican Elizabeth Childs, a Brookline resident and former state mental health commissioner under Mitt Romney.
Childs said she decided to take on Frank, who defeated a GOP challenger last year, when she started thinking about the future faced by her children.
“I have two children who are 9 and 12 and decided that my children and everyone else’s children deserve a better future than the one that the politicians in Washington are going to leave them,” said Childs, a psychiatrist and member of the local school committee.
Frank recently held a series of town hall meetings in his district, arguing in part for deeper cuts in military spending.
At least one Democratic challenger also sees potential daylight in the new map.
Former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, who represented the Berkshires in the Legislature from 1997 to 2007, is hoping to make the jump to Congress. The decision by Olver to leave Congress at the end of this term allowed lawmakers to dramatically recast districts in the western part of the state — a change that Nuciforo sees as an opening.
Under the map, Rep. Richard Neal, who currently represents his hometown of Springfield, will keep the city but add the Berkshires, extending the new district all the way to the New York state line.
Nuciforo said he wished lawmakers created a western Massachusetts district made up more exclusively of smaller towns and cities, excluding Springfield, but said he still saw an opportunity for him in the new district that includes his hometown of Pittsfield.
“When you start to look at where the Democratic primary voters are, we’re going to be very strong,” said Nuciforo, who plans to formally announce his candidacy in February. “We are working every single day.”
Neal said he also expects to be strong in the new district, despite the loss of Northampton.
“I’m very pleased with the district. I couldn’t be happier,” Neal said. “I wanted to keep Northampton, no doubt about it. I worked the area hard and got 88 percent of the vote there. But I’m very happy to pick up the Berkshires.”
Challengers may also have an opening in a newly created southeastern district.
The district will have no incumbent, although Rep. William Keating, whose hometown of Quincy was pulled into a district currently represented by Rep. Stephen Lynch, has said he’ll run.
Incumbents typically have a fundraising edge, as they’re able to tap a network of donors built up over years.
As of the end of September, Frank had nearly $390,000 in his campaign account, Tierney had more than $441,000 and Neal had close to $2.3 million.
Neal said he didn’t think voter anger at Congress will lead to his ouster next year.
“They may be unhappy with Congress, but when you get two (candidates), we’ll see who they’re more unhappy with,” he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.