By: Jamison Tomasek – November, 2011
The results of the Massachusetts legislature’s redistricting commission, at least as far as the House and Senate are concerned, are official. In a fair world we would have legislative districts that represent a common interest and have geographic integrity, but no one has ever called the political environment in Massachusetts fair. While the committee trumpeted their transparency, once it came down to actually drawing the districts the Democrats got together behind closed doors (as they do on all issues) and came up with their plan.
What transpired locally? Well they made a mash of the Lawrence and Greater Lawrence House districts. They could have made Lawrence into two districts, which would result in two city residents representing the city. Instead they had to take into account the fact that Rep. David Torrisi (D- N. Andover) can’t win his own hometown, so they had to shave off part of Lawrence and put it into his district to make certain he had enough votes to win again. They took aim at Rep. Paul Adams (R-Andover) and pretty much took the most favorable chunk of his district away and gave him more Democratic precincts. He has already moved to stay within it.
Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) actually got a better district, though the entire town of Andover should be one district, which it was for many years until 2002. Many people expected this to happen and Adams and Lyons to face-off. Lyons got a precinct in conservative North Andover added and picked up two conservative precincts in Tewksbury, which Adams won handily in 2010. He lost other precincts in his six-town district, making it less gerrymandered than before.
So what does the 17th (Adam’s current district) look like after redistricting? It’s the three Andover precincts that border Lawrence, E-1 in South Lawrence (the most Democratic voting areas of E) all of Democrat voting Tower Hill (D) and to weight it even further, part of solid Democratic B and C and a solid Democratic precinct in Methuen. Most Republicans (like statewide candidates) lost 80% to 20% (or worse) in those precincts in 2010. Rep. Marcos Devers (D-Lawrence) picks up areas south of the river in E and F that were formerly part of Torrisi’s and Adam’s districts, while maintaining his base in the north.
Adams, who knocked on 10,000 doors in 2010, will be need to knock on 7,000 new doors in 2012, many of them requiring him to deploy his Spanish language skills to be successful. He will need to win the three Andover Districts 2 to1, do well in the precincts he already had before and then get 25-30% of the vote in his new precincts.
Rumor has it that City Council president Frank Moran is already planning to run for this seat and he will be a formidable candidate and of course enjoy the benefits of both the state and city machines. It’s unclear whether Adams will run an anti-Lantigua campaign, which would help in Andover and with Anglos in Lawrence. This would be a bit problematic for him as the Mayor supported him in 2010. The redistricting committee ignored calls from Latino groups to create a majority-minority (meaning Latino) Senate district combining Lawrence with parts of Methuen and Haverhill. This is not surprising as Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), who would be the most effected as Lawrence provided his margin of victory in 2010, was on the committee. Another note is that Methuen, Haverhill, and other Merrimack Valley towns were barely affected by the restricting process.
So another census and more gerrymandering helps continue the dominance of the Democratic Party in this state, but don’t let that stop you from getting involved. This state still needs you to keep up the fight, and potentially level the playing field next time around.