Saturday, January 8, 2011

Could the 2010 Census Out Barney Frank in 2012?

The preliminary census results came in a couple of weeks ago, and confirmed that due to stagnant population growth Massachusetts will be losing one of its ten seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Usually the Democrats and Republicans fight over how to redraw the district lines after each census. But with Democrats in control of the Massachusetts legislature and all ten House seats in Congress, there are no Republicans to fight. One incumbent Democrat will have to go.

Who will it be? Let's look at their age, years in the House, and votes received in the November 2010 election:

DistrictRepresentative in CongressAgeYearsVote %
1John Olver, Amherst742060.1%
2Richard Neal, Springfield612257.3%
3Jim McGovern, Worcester511456.5%
4Barney Frank, Newton703053.9%
5Niki Tsongas, Lowell64354.9%
6John Tierney, Salem591456.9%
7Ed Markey, Malden643465.9%
8Mike Capuano, Somerville581298.0%
9Stephen Lynch, South Boston55968.1%
10Bill Keating, Quincy58046.9%

Here's the case for combining the 4th and 10th districts:

(1) Bill Keating and Barney Frank did the worst of their colleagues in the last election. Rejiggering their districts is the best chance for Democrats to hold all nine seats in 2012.

(2) The 4th district is currently the most gerrymandered district. It borders the 3rd, 5th (nearly), 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. That makes it the easiest to pull part to parcel among other districts, as they all must have equal population.

(3) Barney Frank is the second oldest and second longest serving member of the delegation, so a retirement by him makes sense. A retirement by John Olver in western Massachusetts would not help as much, as western Massachusetts will want one of their own in Congress. A retirement by Ed Markey is not expected.

(4) A retirement by Barney Frank could also help the national Democratic Party. He is one of the most polarizing figures in the party, perhaps second only to Nancy Pelosi. And his legendary clout is much diminished by the Republican takeover of the House.

(5) The decision on redistricting will be made by the Massachusetts Legislature. Barney Frank has clout in Washington, DC but does he have clout on Beacon Hill? He's rubbed more than a few local reporters and politicians the wrong way, even those who agree with his politics.

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