So, the proposed new Congressional map for Massachusetts has been released. You can find the official version here, but below is the (essentially) identical version I drew with DRA for analysis purposes.
As most of us know, Massachusetts is losing one of its ten House seats to reapportionment. Unfortunate for Democrats as it’s by far the largest state to shut the Republicans entirely out of its House delegation. The state legislature is in charge of redistricting, and it is, like the delegation, dominated by Democrats, so it is in the interest of both groups to limit Republican takeover opportunities. That having been said, the legislators sometimes have different priorities than the House incumbents, and in some cases the legislators have no particular reason to cater to the desires of each of the nine remaining members of the delegation standing for re-election, so it’s to be expected that some in the delegation won’t be pleased.
Below is an analysis of the new map, what the legislature did, where I think they got it right, and where I think they got it wrong. Complete with lots and lots of numbers.
So what do we have to look forward to for the next decade in the Bay State?
To measure the relative strength and weakness of the proposed new districts, I used the numbers from the following six state and national races.
1. 2010-Gov: Incumbent Deval Patrick won a close but somewhat comfortable plurarity win against Republican Charlie Baker and Dem-turned-Independent State Treasurer Tim Cahill, 48-42-8. This race is included as a somewhat typical competitive statewide race, with the added angle of a third-party candidate notching significant votes in a key identifiable voting bloc which often serves as a swing vote.
2. 2010-Treasurer: In an open seat race to replace the aforementioned Cahill, Steve Grossman defeated Republican Karyn Polito 55-45. Another somewhat typical competitive statewide race; the wrinkle is the unusually high strength of the GOP candidate in Central Massachusetts.
3. 2010-Senate: The much-talked-about January 2010 special election that saw Republican Sen. Scott Brown shock the world, defeating Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley 52-48. It’s easy to put too much weight on these numbers and overestimate GOP strength in the state based on them…but it’s a handy metric for a worst-case scenario. A district that opted for Coakley is pretty rock-solid.
4. 2008-Pres: Obama easily bested McCain. Ho hum. The two-candidates share was 63-37. The interesting angle here is that unlike almost everywhere else in the country, Obama’s numbers didn’t improve on Democratic numbers in 2004. Some of that is no doubt due to John Kerry being a Bay Stater. But this effect was far from uniform and the discrepancies line up in interesting ways with results in other races I tracked. Towns where Obama failed to match Kerry’s numbers tended also to be towns where Coakley badly underperformed, and where Cahill attracted a bigger share of votes in 2010.
5. 2006-Sen: Ted Kennedy’s final re-election contest; he bested GOP sacrificial lamb Kenneth Chase by a 69-31 margin. Typical non-competitive statewide result in most respects; there’s a certain percentage of voters who would never vote for Kennedy but that’s canceled out by the amount of loyalty he inspires among others. These numbers are included for balance; they are close to the normal numbers for Democratic incumbents seeking re-election. They serve as something closer to a best-case scenario.
6. 2004-Pres: In Massachusetts anyway, Kerry unsurprisingly beat Bush handily. The two-candidate breakdown was essentially the same as it was four years later, 63-37. This data is growing a little stale at this point, but serves as a good starting point to track more recent trends. There are actually decent number of towns that switched sides in both directions between 2004 and 2008.
Because the legislature split so many towns this time around, and I didn’t have access to precinct data when I did this, I had to choose whether to create a model for how I assigned shares of the town’s votes or just assumed proportionality. In the case of the smaller, more homogenous towns (Andover, Bellingham, Raynham, Sudbury, and Winchendon) I went with the simpler proportionality assumption. I did the same for Fall River since the demographic differences between the two pieces of the city (for a big city in southern New England, Fall River is extremely white) were pretty small, and both pieces included similar shares of both the city core and periphery. The demographics in Boston, Cambridge, and Milton seemed to dictate the modeling approach, since the two pieces of each are pretty different.
Election results and demographics figures should be self-explanatory.
Vote Share tracks approximately the percentage of voters from the 2010-GOV and 2008-PRES elections casts by the towns in the new district based on what current district they came from. For example, votes for 2010-GOV in the towns of MA-04 incumbent Barney Frank’s current district cast 56% of the total among those assigned to what would become his new district, essentially meaning 44% of his new district’s voters are currently assigned to other districts. (Not all new voters are created equal, of course. Sometimes a new town is likely to already know the incumbent since he/she represents a town in the same general orbit, which is different from gaining new territory in a completely different part of the state. Also, some of these folks have been through multiple reapportionment cycles and may be getting back towns they used to represent.) These numbers might be off a little, since dealing with all the split towns is tricky business. I was able to duplicate the splits on the proposed map in most cases with DRA, but for Raynham it didn’t work – the town is divided into thirds, and that map seems to suggest Raynham was split almost in half.
It appears that Boston was split almost the same way it is now, as is Fall River (but with Barney Frank ending up with the part of the city he doesn’t currently represent while the part he does represent mostly gets put in a different district.)
Standard PVI (Partisan Voter Index) is based on the two most recent Presidential elections.
Baseline is what happens, assuming a uniform swing, in each of the districts for a hypothetical tied statewide election, based on all six of the above contests. In other words, a value of D+5 means that a Democrat needs to carry that district by more than 5 points to prevail statewide, again, assuming a uniform swing. (An R value here does not mean that the district is Republican; it’s just a district where Republicans do better than the statewide average.)
State-adjusted PVI is based on the above six elections. The numbers are all more pessimistic for Democrats because they list four other elections, one of which was won by the Republican candidate, and two others of which were significantly more competitive than either Presidential election was in Massachusetts. For balance one typically non-competitive contest was included. I don’t necessarily think that these numbers are more accurate as a gauge of partisan strength than straight PVI, but to the extent U.S. House elections are local contests, looking at some more localized numbers provides additional insight into where the state or parts thereof might be trending. A district where the GOP was able to pick up 6 points with state races included is, in my mind, more potentially vulnerable to a loss than a district where they only picked up 3 points.
Competitive Congressional races in this state have been relatively few and far between in recent years. For the Republicans to be competitive, there typically has to be a pro-Republican election cycle with an open seat and/or a weak or damaged Democratic incumbent or candidate. The elections for the 2010 cycle were more competitive than they had been in over a decade, owing in large part to the nature of the cycle, but the GOP still wasn’t able to break through in any of the House races. One of their problems was that none of their candidates were especially compelling in an objective sense. Over the course of the last decade, the GOP candidate pool had become so weak that most of their Congressional candidates were people who’d never been elected to anything (not even at the town level, and municipal elections are generally non-partisan in Massachusetts) before. In nearly any other year, they’d have been classified as mere sacrifical lambs; heck, one of them even had the last name Lamb. All of them ran at least a few points ahead of typical challengers, three of them even attracting attention from political analysts looking for competitive races. The one that attracted the most attention was the soon to be dissolved MA-10, an open seat where Norfolk County DA Bill Keating narrowly defeated Republican state Rep. Jeff Perry in race with two potential spoiler indepdent candidates. (Perry was damaged by a personal scandal, but he was the only GOP challenger that had any substantial record of running for office.) In MA-06, damaged incumbent John Tierney survived a challenge from Bill Hudak in a situation where a better Republican challenger might have been able to flip that seat. And of course there was MA-04 where Barney Frank defeated Sean Bielat. Bielat became something of a conservative folk hero for challenging the hated Frank, and was able to raise tons of money as conservative-oriented media showered him with free publicity. The bark was worse than the bite there, though, showing how strong Frank really is with his base.
Without further ado…
First District (Replaces Old 1st, 2nd) - Green
Cities/Towns of Note: Springfield, Chicopee, Westfield, Pittsfield, Southbridge
Incumbent: Richard Neal (D-Springfield)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): 51 Neal, 49 Olver
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): 52 Neal, 48 Olver
Demographics (ALL) : 76 White, 15 Hispanic, 5 Black, 2 Asian, 2 Other
Demographics (VAP) : 80 White, 12 Hispanic, 5 Black, 2 Asian, 1 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 51, Baker 37, Cahill 10, Stein 2
2010-TR: Grossman 57-43
2010-SEN: Brown 50-50
2008-PRES: Obama 65-35
2006-SEN: Kennedy 69-31
2004-PRES: Kerry 64-36
Projected Standard PVI: D+13
Projected Baseline: D+2
Projected State-Adjusted PVI: D+9
This district contains most of Western Massachusetts, consolidating the entire Greater Springfield area, the Berkshires region, and a portion of south-western Worcester County.
Incumbent Neal mostly says goodbye to the Five Colleges area (but keeps South Hadley) and sheds the Blackstone Valley portion of his district in the east (going no further east than East Brookfield and Dudley.) In return his new district consolidates the communities west (W. Springfield and Westfield) and north (Holyoke) of Springfield and adds all of Berkshire County and a collection of other small towns west of the Pioneer Valley. This district overall hangs together pretty well.
Despite the loss of heavily Democratic Northampton and Hadley and the addition of several conservative towns west of Springfield, the district, thanks to replacing a bunch of conservative Central Mass communities with more liberal Western Mass ones, Neal will end up with a D+13 district, a step up from his current D+9 seat. Neal’s challenge, of course, is that nearly half his district is new to him, though that’s a bit misleading insofar as many of those new constituents are from towns ringing Springfield who are probably at least a little familiar with him, the Berkshire County portion being the only territory where he’s a relative unknown.
What little GOP bench there is here is headed by State Sen. Mike Knapik (R-Westfield) and former Sen. Minority Leader Brian Lees of East Longmeadow. There are a handful of newly minted Republican legislators in Southern Worcester County; none has proven they can survive a tougher cycle than 2010, and none would be likely to get the sort of support in even the more conservative towns in the Springfield area to endanger Neal or any other Springfield-based Democrat. With a strong Springfield base being such a huge share of the district’s population, it’s hard to see Neal, who has some conserva-Dem tendencies but is mostly a pretty solid Democrat, getting primaried out of office. Former state Sen . Andy Nuciforo of Pittsfield is mounting such a challenge, but he faces an uphill battle as Springfield as the unquestioned center of gravity here.
Second District (Replaces Old 3rd, 1st) - Tan
Cities/Towns of Note: Worcester, Amherst, Leominster, Shrewsbury, Northampton
Incumbent: James McGovern (D-Worcester); John Olver (D-Amherst)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): 39 McGovern, 31 Neal, 30 Olver
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): 39 McGovern, 31 Neal, 29 Olver
Demographics (ALL): 81 White, 8 Hispanic, 5 Asian, 4 Black, 2 Other
Demographics (VAP): 83 White, 7 Hispanic, 4 Asian, 4 Black, 2 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 47, Baker 43, Cahill 8, Stein 2
2010-TR: Polito 46-54
2010-SEN: Brown 45-55
2008-PRES: Obama 62-38
2006-SEN: Kennedy 68-32
2004-PRES: Kerry 61-93
Projected Standard PVI: D+10
Projected Baseline: R+3
Projected State-Adjusted PVI: D+4
This district combines most of Worcester County (including most of the Blackstone Valley) with the Pioneer Valley (most of Hampshire and Franklin Counties) region of Western Massachusetts.
With Rep. Olver opting to retire, McGovern inherits a district that is mostly new to him, as his current district snakes southward towards Fall River. He would face two large sets of new constituents: one set in towns both northwest and south of Worcester who may be somewhat familiar with him (most of these towns are covered by Worcester-based media) but would likely prefer a more conservative representative, and the other in the Pioneer Valley who may not know him as well (they’re mostly served by local or Springfield-based media) but are an ideal fit for a progressive like McGovern.
A potential GOP bench is emerging in the Worcester area – the first two names that come to mind are two former state representatives – 2010 Treasurer nominee Polito of Shrewsbury and newly minted Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis of Holden. Working against them is the addition of all those Pioneer Valley communities, since nobody with the letter (R) beside his or her name has much chance of getting many votes at all in those towns; they strongly favor progressives in primaries and Democrats in general elections. Any Democrat who takes care of business and gets 60% (about what Patrick got; Obama and Kerry were in the 70% range) of the vote in Worcester, itself accounting for almost 25% of this district’s population, has nothing to worry about. Still, had I been drawing a map like this, I might have grabed a few more deep-blue western small towns to raise the PVI, leaving another conservative town or two with Neal’s bluer district; speaking as a central Mass native, I might have re-joined Webster to Dudley, since their respective downtowns run right into each other.
McGovern’s new district projects to D+10, a marginal improvement on his current D+9 district. Franklin and Hampshire Counties more than make up for the loss of Fall River, while the new set of Central Massachusetts communities project to being only slightly less friendly than the middle portion of the current MA-03. And there aren’t enough votes out west to make a regionalist-based primary challenge to McGovern (or anyone else from Central Mass who inherits this seat) especially likely, as Worcester County makes up over 2/3 of this district’s population. One could imagine a future open seat situation where a suburban Republican does well enough in Worcester against a western Democrat who could have trouble connecting with central Massachusetts voters, who, even in the biggest cities, frequently vote conserva-Dems into office, to make things interesting. But as things stand now, this should be a pretty safe seat for McGovern, even if he’s only taking 39% of his constituents on to his next cycle.
Third District (Replaces Old 5th) - Purple
Cities/Towns of Note: Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Fitchburg, Marlborough
Incumbent: Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Tsongas 77, Olver 16, McGovern 7
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Tsongas 77, Olver 16, McGovern 7
Demographics (ALL): 72 White, 16 Hispanic, 7 Asian, 3 Black, 2 Other
Demographics (VAP): 75 White, 14 Hispanic, 6 Asian, 3 Black, 2 Other
2010-GOV: Baker 48, Patrick 44, Cahill 8, Stein 1
2010-TR: Polito 48-52
2010-SEN: Brown 43-57
2008-PRES: Obama 60-40
2006-SEN: Kennedy 65-35
2004-PRES: Kerry 58-42
Projected Standard PVI: D+8
Projected Baseline: R+5
Projected State-Adjusted PVI: D+2
This district encompasses most of the Merrimack Valley region, but also covers some territory in northern Worcester County and some of the towns of the Metrowest region.
Due to the dissolution of one of the two districts based in Western Massachusetts, and the resultant western movement of another one, this district has to take over some of the territory in the easternmost portions of the old MA-01 and MA-03, adding a set of Central Massachusetts communities, most notably Fitchburg in the north and Marlborough in the south. In exchange, incumbent Tsongas sheds some of the Merrimack Valley (Billerica, Tewksbury, and a portion of Andover) and some of her Metrowest holdings (Wayland and a portion of Sudbury.) It’s not as cohesive as the current district is, but the move west necessitiates the changes.
The result is a district whose partisan voting makeup is little changed; the new towns are more conservative than the state as a whole, but collectively they are less so than the now-departed Billerica and Tewksbury.
In the Merrimack Valley region, Lowell and Lawrence are surrounded by towns who often vote Republican, and the new communities further west range from near-neutral to hostile for Democrats. Adding in upscale and yet strongly Democratic towns further south - Acton, Concord, and Maynard, move things in a bluer direction, and prevent this district from being a true swing district. Also helpful for Democrats is that, apart from the proposed minority-majority MA-07, this would be the most demographically diverse district in the state.
It’s popular to say that Tsongas is an unimpressive and underperforming incumbent, but apart from an underwhelming performance in a special election (and we’ve seen a lot of odd special election results everywhere lately) to first gain the seat, there isn’t really hard evidence for that proposition. She’s got two terms under her belt, and only 23% of her constituents are new to her. As far as a GOP bench goes, there was a recent surge in Republican legislators representing parts of this area, but none look like obvious strong challengers for this seat, since they’re mostly new and don’t look well positioned to win crossover votes, which any Republican running at this level in Massachusetts needs to contend. Still, the trends are somewhat troubling; Brown, Polito, and Baker, none of them especially local to this area, all did pretty well here, so this district is definitely at least a little bit vulnerable.
Fourth District (Replaces Old 4th) - Red
Cities/Towns of Note: Newton, Brookline, Fall River (pt.), Taunton, Attleboro
Incumbent: Barney Frank (D-Newton)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Frank 56, McGovern 31, Lynch 7, Neal 6
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Frank 54, McGovern 33, Lynch 7, Neal 6
Demographics (ALL): 87 White, 5 Asian, 4 Hispanic, 2 Black, 2 Other
Demographics (VAP): 88 White, 5 Asian, 3 Hispanic, 2 Black, 2 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 46, Baker 46, Cahill 7, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 54-46
2010-SEN: Brown 45-55
2008-PRES: Obama 61-39
2006-SEN: Kennedy 69-31
2004-PRES: Kerry 62-38
Projected Standard PVI: D+10
Projected Baseline: R+2
Projected State-Adjusted PVI: D+6
This district runs from Brookline and Newton at the top to Taunton and a portion of Fall River at the bottom; in between are western and south-western Boston suburbs and a string of towns along the Rhode Island border. From an aesthetic and communities-of-interest point of view, this doesn't look especially great but there used to be four districts that snaked their way into SEMass in this fashion and now there's really only one that does so.
To the naked eye the new district looks a lot like incumbent Frank’s current MA-04, but in actuality nearly half of it is new turf for him. This new MA-04 takes over a bunch of towns either on or near the Rhode Island border (e.g. Franklin, Attleboro, Swansea) currently belonging to MA-03 and a cluster of Central Massachusetts towns (Milford being the largest of these) mostly currently in MA-02. Since those towns are far less friendly to Democrats and to liberals in general than the South Coast towns that have been shipped to the new MA-09, Frank can’t be entirely happy with this redrawing, especially considering the degree to which Frank counts on constituent service as a reason he’s tougher to beat than one would think given how generally limited his appeal is to centrist-type independents. He does get some consolation prizes though: Needham is a welcome addition, while a cluster of Republican towns in the former district’s south-east corner have been removed.
The slight shift westward of the southern portion of the district strengthens the pool of potential GOP candidates. There’s Scott Brown’s state Senate successor Richard Ross; and House Minority Leader Dan Winslow of Norfolk, and 2010 opponent Sean Bielat, the Brookline resident who gave Frank his fiercest challenge he’s had in many moons. Frank still won that election by double digits. While any district that’s been won at any level by a Republican so recently can’t be considered 100% safe, it’s hard to imagine Frank drawing a top-tier challenger; he didn’t get caught napping last time and there’s no particular reason to think he wouldn’t be up to the task of a few more re-election cycles.
Fifth District (Replaces Old 7th) - Yellow
Cities/Towns of Note: Framingham, Malden, Medford, Waltham, Cambridge (pt.)
Incumbent: Edward Markey (D-Malden)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Markey 81, Capuano 7, McGovern 6, Tsongas 5, Frank 1
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Markey 81, Capuano 7, McGovern 6, Tsongas 5, Frank 1
Demographics (ALL): 75 White, 9 Asian, 7 Hispanic, 5 Black, 4 Other
Demographics (VAP): 77 White, 9 Asian, 7 Hispanic, 4 Black, 3 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 54, Baker 39, Cahill 6, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 61-39
2010-SEN: Coakley 55-45
2008-PRES: Obama 67-33
2006-SEN: Kennedy 73-27
2004-PRES: Kerry 67-33
Projected Standard PVI: D+16
Projected Baseline: D+5
Projected Adjusted PVI:D+12
This district consists mostly of a ring of first-tier and second-tier northern and western Boston suburbs from Winthrop in the east to Holliston in the west. Not much has changed here; four Metrowest suburbs (Wayland, Sherborn, Ashland, and Holliston) and a portion of a fifth (Sudbury) have been added in addition to nearly half of Cambridge; gone are Everett and Wakefield.
This district is something a Democratic vote sink as well, and given the trouble two neighboring districts might have, constitutes a missed opportunity for map drawers. Incumbent Markey has most of his traditional base of Malden, Melrose, and Medford. to go with arch-liberal Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington, highly diverse Framingham to lean on; Republican-friendly turf is scarce and the GOP bench here is essentially non-existent. This might end up being the bluest white-majority district in the entire country.
Sixth District (Replaces Old 6th) - Teal
Cities/Towns of Note: Lynn, Peabody, Salem, Gloucester, Billerica
Incumbent: John Tierney (D-Salem)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Tierney 86, Tsongas 10, Markey 4
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Tierney 86, Tsongas 10, Markey 4
Demographics (ALL): 85 White, 7 Hispanic, 4 Asian, 2 Black, 2 Other
Demographics (VAP): 87 White, 6 Hispanic, 3 Asian, 2 Black, 1 Other
2010-GOV: Baker 50, Patrick 41, Cahill 8, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 50-50
2010-SEN: Brown 41-59
2008-PRES: Obama 58-42
2006-SEN: Kennedy 66-34
2004-PRES: Kerry 58-42
Projected Standard PVI: D+7
Projected Baseline: R+5
Projected State-Adjusted PVI: D+2
This North-Shore based district also includes some northern suburbs and some Merrimack Valley towns.
From a partisan Democrats’ perspective, this is the one to really worry about. It was already not an especially strong shade of blue, and the three-plus added towns – Wakefield, Tewksbury, Billerica, plus a portion of Andover, make it even weaker. The good news for incumbent John Tierney, who found himself damaged by a family scandal, is that nothing else has changed; his district is the least changed in the state.
There are some good Democratic towns in here – Salem, Lynn, and Gloucester chief among them – but the smaller North Shore, Merrimack Valley, and outer suburban communities lean to the right, particularly as one gets closer to the New Hampshire border and two of the larger cities, Peabody and Beverly, do only a little to dampen GOP hopes. But there’s only so much one can do in this corner of the state, assuming the “unpack Boston” option is off the table, since strengthening this district tends to involve weakening the new MA-03, which can similarly ill afford to be weakened much...Both Charlie Baker and Scott Brown (both originally North Shore natives, though Brown hasn’t lived there in a long time) had their best respective showings in the state here.
Not that this is saying a whole lot, but this district also has the best GOP bench of any district in the state.
Both Baker and his running mate, former State Sen. Richard Tisei of Wakefield, are from here, as well as former Lt. Gov. and 2006 gubernatorial nominee Kerry Healey. Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins and State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) are also possibilities. Tierney dodged a bit of a bullet in 2010 when the Republicans couldn’t get any first-tier or second-tier names into the race, ending up with random teabagger Bill Hudak. An optimist could make the argument that if the Republicans couldn’t take the seat against a damaged incumbent in an all-time GOP year, they’d stand less chance of doing so in a less favorable cycle during which the scandal is old news. Another possible obstacle to the bigger name Republicans, one that would never have been considered prior to 2010, is that the GOP primary electorate could be sufficiently conservative and purity-minded as to create a strong possibility that someone like Hudak could beat out a superior general election challenger. (No Republican gets elected, let alone re-elected, in Massachusetts without appealing to moderates and saying/doing things that anger hard-line conservatives – just ask Mitt Romney.) Nonetheless, this is one district that Democrats could seriously regret having drawn.
Seventh District (Replaces Old 8th) - Blue
Cities/Towns of Note: Boston (pt.), Cambridge (pt.), Somerville, Everett, Randolph
Incumbent: Michael Capuano (D-Somerville)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Capuano 87, Lynch 8, Markey 5
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Capuano 86, Lynch 9, Markey 6
Demographics (ALL): 44 White, 23 Black, 19 Hispanic, 9 Asian, 5 Other
Demographics (VAP): 49 White, 21 Black, 17 Hispanic, 10 Asian, 4 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 74, Baker 20, Cahill 5, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 77-23
2010-SEN: Coakley 73-27
2008-PRES: Obama 85-15
2006-SEN: Kennedy 87-13
2004-PRES: Kerry 81-19
Projected Standard PVI: D+32
Projected Baseline: D+21
Projected Adjusted PVI: D+29
This Boston-based district also includes all or parts of Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, Milton, and Randolph. (City neighborhoods in this district include Charlestown, portions of Back Bay, Allston, Brighton, Kenmore Square, Fenway, Mission Hill, portions of the South End, Roxbury, most of Dorchester, portions of Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, and Hyde Park) A majority of its residents are something other than non-Hispanic White, though no one minority group has an especially large share of the district’s population.
This district adds Randolph and a portion of Milton to the south and Everett to the north, while shedding portions of Cambridge.
Obviously, this district is a pretty massive Democratic vote sink. I can only assume they feared a Republican-inspired lawsuit enough to end any ambiguity about whether the state was obligated to create a district like this one. There was a bit of a verbal tussle last year between Scott Brown and Mike Capuano; Brown suggested that there needs to be a minority-majority seat, to which Capuano responded that the state already had one making Brown look a little foolish in the process. But the GOP got what it wanted; namely, that none of this district’s residents has any say in the more potentially competitive districts around Boston.
Not much else interesting to say here. Capuano likely has this seat for as long as he wants it; he passed up the chance at a Senate run next year, but he could put his hat in the ring should the other Senate seat, the one currently held by John Kerry, becomes vacant, and he’s sometimes been talked about as a future gubernatorial candidate. Should he decide to move on, the Democratic primary for an open seat in this district, one of the safest Democratic seats in the nation, is usually crowded, spirited, and chaotic.
Note: Because the majority of this district is in Boston, there’s considerable margin for error in these numbers since they’re a result of the model I created for voting and turnout patterns that might not be accurate. Nonetheless, this district isn’t even close to being competitive between the two major parties.
Eighth District (Replaces Old 9th) - Orange
Cities/Towns of Note: Boston (pt.), Brockton, Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth
Incumbents: Stephen Lynch (D-Boston); William Keating (D-Quincy)
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Lynch 69, Keating 29, Frank 2
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Lynch 72, Keating 27, Frank 1
Demographics (ALL): 77 White, 8 Black, 7 Asian, 5 Hispanic, 4 Other
Demographics (VAP): 79 White, 7 Black, 7 Asian, 4 Hispanic, 3 Other
2010-GOV: Patrick 45, Baker 42, Cahill 12, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 57-43
2010-SEN: Brown 45-55
2008-PRES: Obama 60-40
2006-SEN: Kennedy 69-31
2004-PRES: Kerry 61-39
Projected Standard PVI: D+9
Projected Baseline: R+1
Projected Adjusted PVI: D+6
A combination of the current 9th and 10th districts, this district includes predominantly white parts of Boston (North End, Downtown, South Boston, portions of Back Bay, portions of the South End, portions of Dorchester, West Roxbury, Roslindale, portions of Jamaica Plain) and many of its southern suburbs, including the upper half of the South Shore region and stretching south to Brockton and beyond.
It only comes out as a projected D+9 seat, but I think that underestimates Democratic strength in this district a little. There’s not much history, recent or otherwise, of Republican voting in most of this territory. Scott Brown narrowly beat his statewide average here, but none of the other GOP hopefuls got much help from the people of this proposed district. They were famously cool to Barack Obama, this being one of those districts where he failed to match John Kerry’s showing, but there’s not much evidence from state elections or at lower levels for any sort of redshifting in this area. (The baseline here is listed as R+1, which just illustrates how tough it is to be a Republican in the Bay State most of the time; a Republican running statewide generally has to carry this district to win the state, something they usually can’t do. )
Both Lynch and Keating currently live here, but all reports indicate that Lynch is staying and Keating is moving southward to stand for election in the new MA-09, which will be discussed below. This is mostly the land of Irish Catholic blue-collar pro-labor culturally moderate-to-conservative Democrats. As much as we don’t like him on DK, Lynch, a steelworker-turned-politician is fundamentally a decent fit for this district, especially if he’s savvy enough to have figured out that he has nothing to gain by siding with the GOP on bread-and-butter issues. Note also that this was Tim Cahill’s best district; he was a Democrat from Quincy (also in this district) somewhat in this same vein before opting for an Independent gubernatorial bid. It’s hard to imagine a Republican getting much traction against him and his solid Democratic base in Boston, especially with Brockton thrown in for good measure. Just about the only elected Republican of note around here is Sen. Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth) but if he passed up a 2010 run in a less blue district for an open seat, I have a hard time believing he’d risk a relatively safe Beacon Hill gig for an uphill fight against his former colleague Lynch. This seat should stay in Democratic hands.
(Note: Because this district includes a portion of Boston and I used models for the splits of Boston and Milton, there’s some margin of error here. I may have been slightly too pessimistic about the overall lean of the portions of Boston in here.)
Ninth District (New District) - Aqua
Cities/Towns of Note: New Bedford, Fall River (pt.), Plymouth, Barnstable, Falmouth
Current District Vote Share (2010-GOV): Keating 70, Frank 28, Lynch 2
Current District Vote Share (2008-PRES): Keating 67, Frank 31, Lynch 2
Demographics (ALL): 88 White, 4 Hispanic, 2 Black, 1 Asian, 4 Other
Demographics (VAP): 90 White, 3 Hispanic, 2 Black, 1 Asian, 3 Other
2010-GOV: Baker 46, Patrick 45, Cahill 9, Stein 1
2010-TR: Grossman 51-49
2010-SEN: Brown 42-58
2008-PRES: Obama 59-41
2006-SEN: Kennedy 65-35
2004-PRES: Kerry 59-41
Projected Standard PVI: D+8
Projected Baseline: R+4
Projected Adjusted PVI: D+3
This newly-created district includes much of the South Coast and South Shore regions as well as Cape Cod and the Islands.
I’m a little puzzled as to why they would create an open seat that contained as many strong Republican towns as this new district does. About two-thirds of this district is currently represented by freshman Rep. Keating, but his 2010 Republican opponent, former state Rep. Jeff Perry of Sandwich, carried most of these towns. (The remaining portion, primarily found in Barney Frank’s current district, is where most of the Democratic strength originates ) Scott Brown did pretty well in this district, as did Charlie Baker, and the GOP has had decent success at lower levels across most of this territory.
Bill Keating from the now-dissolved MA-10 is said to be set to declare residency in his summer home in Bourne (on Cape Cod) and running here, apparently liking his odds here better than he does against fellow Democrat Lynch next door in the new MA-08; however, he’ll be facing carpetbagger charges to more of an extent than he did two years ago if he did so. (The good news for him on this score is that there’s three distinct pieces to this district – Cape Cod, the lower South Shore, and the South Coast – and his potential opponents from both parties would be just as much an outsider in at least two of those.)
Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) could be a strong contender if she was willing to risk her Beacon Hill perch, which she probably isn’t. We could see unsuccessful 2010 hopeful and former state Senator Jim O’Leary (D-Barnstable) give it another try, this time without having to run in as many distant Boston suburbs. It’s been so long since we could talk about a Congressional candidate from the Fall River or New Bedford areas that it’s hard to imagine that someone down there wouldn’t try to take advantage of finally not being stuck in a district clearly dominated by a far-off part of the state.
As for the Republicans, as said above, they obviously can’t be counted out here. I suppose there’s no reason that former state Rep. Jeff Perry (R-Sandwich) and unsuccessful 2010 Congressional hopeful can’t try again, but if he couldn’t win in 2010 in a D+5 seat, I don’t know how he prevails in 2012 in a D+8 seat, even assuming he gets out of a GOP primary. The next person who comes to mind is probably Bristol County Sherriff Tom Hodgson. Two high-ranking State Reps, Vinny de Macedo (R-Plymouth) and Daniel Webster (R-Hanson) also live here.
I would expect Keating to hold on to this seat despite his vulnerabilities; the fact that it’s a Presidential election year will help a bit, as turnout will be up and there’s not much chance 2012 will be a worse cycle for Democrats than 2010 was. It’s hard to picture an incumbent Democrat who won an open seat in 2010 losing a similar and slightly bluer district in 2012.
And to close, here are some more maps: