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Mass. lawmakers vote on new congressional map

By Bob Salsberg
Associated Press / November 15, 2011

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BOSTON—Massachusetts lawmakers moved Tuesday to adopt a new congressional district map that eliminates one of the state's 10 current seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and creates the state's first district where minority residents would make up a majority of voters.

The state House of Representatives voted 122-29 to approve the map after rejecting a series of proposed amendments, including an alternative map offered by Republicans that called for shifting some communities between redrawn districts in the central and western parts of the state.

The Senate opted to delay a final vote on the map until Wednesday after a single senator objected to the new district lines.

The redistricting plan was drawn up by a legislative committee after population shifts measured by the 2010 census forced the state's number of U.S. House seats to shrink from 10 to nine beginning with the next Congress.

State Rep. Michael Moran, the House chairman of the redistricting panel, said among the most significant features of the new map was the creation of a so-called minority-majority district. The new 7th District, consisting of portions of Boston and surrounding communities, would have a majority of voters who are black, Latino or Asian-American.

"I am confident that, moving forward, the new 7th Congressional District has an absolute chance of electing the first minority to (the House) in the history of the Commonwealth and that is something that everyone should be proud of," Moran said.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano of Somerville currently represents the district.

The proposed map also establishes a new southeastern Massachusetts district that includes Cape Cod, Plymouth and New Bedford.

No incumbent lives in the newly formed district, but freshman U.S. Rep. William Keating has indicated that he will run in it. Keating lives in Quincy, which would be in the same district as the one where U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch of South Boston now lives.

Keating's family also owns a home on Cape Cod.

The map makes major changes in western Massachusetts, essentially by carving up the 1st District now represented by U.S. Rep. John Olver, who has announced that he will retire at the end of his term.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield would see his district extended west to include the Berkshires, while U.S. Rep. James McGovern of Worcester would pick up communities in two other western counties.

The alternative map proposed Tuesday by Republicans sought to shift several Worcester County communities back into the district now represented by McGovern, while moving several Hampshire County towns to Neal's district. The GOP lawmakers said their proposal would make more regional sense and result in more compact districts for central and western Massachusetts.

The amendment, which was defeated on a mostly party-line vote, also would have placed all of Fall River into the new southeastern Massachusetts district. The map calls for the city to be split between that district and a redrawn district now represented by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, of Newton.

Republicans are hoping the reshaped districts will provide new opportunities for them to make a dent in the state's all-Democratic House delegation.

Former state Rep. Richard Tisei of Wakefield, the 2010 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, formally announced on Tuesday his plan to run in a redrawn district currently represented by Rep. John Tierney of Salem.

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Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.