The Commonwealth Loses Some Clout

By Seth Daniel

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Federal Census 2010 officials announced the first population counts Tuesday morning and within that information was the staggering fact that Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 members of Congress by 2012.

The news means that in June the State Legislature will have to begin the daunting task of eliminating one sitting member of Congress. The process must be done no later than February 2012, when the Congressional election process begins.

House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said on Tuesday that he was disappointed to lose a member of Congress. However, he was not interested in commenting on the politically charged project that the state Legislature has to embark upon in the next several months.

“It is truly unfortunate that Massachusetts will lose representation in Congress due  to today’s Census numbers,” said DeLeo. “The people of Massachusetts deserve the number of  voices and representatives that are currently in Washington fighting for families  and individuals across our great state.”

However, all of the political turmoil could be spared if events that transpired on Tuesday morning have any connection to the process about to take place.

About 30 minutes before the Census announced Massachusetts’s loss, a key staffer from Congressman Ed Markey’s (D-Malden) office abruptly announced her resignation, stating her last day would be Dec. 23.

Kate Bazinsky had been an eight-year employee of Markey, serving very close to him as his Political and Finance Director. Her announcement by e-mail read that she was “moving on” and would be going back to school at Johns Hopkins University to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

It was a strange move made even more strange by its timing. It led most following the story to wonder aloud what was going on. Everyone – especially those in Congress – knew the significance of today’s Census announcement here in Massachusetts.

Many were wondering if Markey – who turns 65 this year – might be retiring from Congress and pursuing some sort of administration or Cabinet position for President Barack Obama.

Could Markey be making the job easier for state legislators?

It seemed improbable that the dean of the Massachusetts delegation would make such a move.

The Journal contacted his office immediately after the news, but was not able to get a comment over the phone or in writing.

Bazinsky’s replacement, Matt Harutunian, was looking into the matter at press time.

Whether Markey stays or goes, the fact is that one of the state’s 10 members of Congress will be gone in a year’s time.

Brian McNiff of the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office said that the U.S. Constitution mandates Tuesday’s Census announcement. The national population and the Congressional apportionment have to be reported to the president by Dec. 31st.

More in depth Census 2010 information will be released in February and March, which will trigger local redistricting efforts. Once those local lines are drawn by June, the State Legislature will be delivered the information they need to draw new Congressional lines. At that point, they will have until February 2012 to figure out whom they will eliminate and what the new districts will look like.

“The Constitution requires that the 2012 elections will be determined using the 2010 Census information,” said McNiff. “Tuesday was sort of the kickoff to get that done, so to speak.

Not only do they have to squeeze out one member, they might also have to move district lines – and some have postulated for several years that Revere, Everett and Winthrop could be moved out of Markey’s district and into one of the Boston districts.

Both outcomes are at stake.

“It’s a highly politically charged exercise so there could be things going on all over the place, but the numbers will be in hand by June for the [state] Legislature to start working on the building blocks of districts,” he said.

While Massachusetts’ population grew by 3.1 percent, it wasn’t enough to keep up with other states in the West and Southeast that grew at a much greater rate, many with double-digit increases in population.

States like Nevada grew by 35 percent, Arizona by 25 percent and Texas by 21 percent.

Additionally, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida all grew at rates between 17 and 18 percent.

The Northeast lagged, growing by no more than 6.5 percent (New Hampshire).

That meant that the balance of representation in the House had to go west, and it did as traditional centers of the population in the Northeast and Midwest lost members of Congress.

Michigan, incidentally, was the only state to lose population.

While Massachusetts lost one member of Congress, New York and Ohio lost two members. Other states losing members of Congress were Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Those gaining seats were Arizona (+1), Florida (+2), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), South Carolina (+1), Texas (+4), Utah (+1), and Washington (+1).

The overall population of the United States increased by 9.7 percent, totaling 308,745,538.

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