Despite population changes that require Massachusetts to give up one of its 10 seats in the U.S. House, Congressman John Tierney said he is confident his seat will not be sacrificed when state lawmakers redraw congressional district lines before the 2012 election.
"Since the Civil War, the 6th Congressional District has been an Essex County seat, and the cities and towns comprising the district have remained relatively consistent," Tierney said in a prepared statement. "There will be discussions during the next few months, and I believe our district should and will stay together."
Massachusetts is one of 10 states that will lose representation based on data released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Eight states will gain seats and the remaining 32 will maintain their present number of representatives.
Though the state's population has increased 3.1 percent, to 6,547,629, since the 2000 Census, Massachusetts' growth has failed to keep pace with states in the western and southern part of the country. The last time the state lost a seat was 1990.
The population shifts highlighted in the once-a-decade census require the nation to reapportion the House's 435 districts to make them roughly equal in population, with each state getting at least one seat.
Beacon Hill lawmakers are responsible for redistricting. A decade ago, the process ended in court with former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, a Democrat, pleading guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge after he denied playing a role in drawing districts for the new Massachusetts State House map.
Some in Massachusetts, including Republicans and Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin, have recently called for an independent redistricting commission to avoid a process Galvin has described as full of "secrecy and mischief."
But lawmakers have already taken steps to do the job themselves. Senate President Therese Murray has selected Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, to lead the redistricting effort in the Senate. House Speaker Robert DeLeo gave Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, the task of overseeing the redistricting process in the House.
Tierney has made it clear that he intends for his name to be on the ballot in 2012. He touted the health of the 6th District in his statement.
"Our communities of interest have thrived, our families have worked together to strengthen our schools and main streets, our population has grown, and we have supported our neighbors and small-business owners," he said.
Tierney's district is one of the more compact, with communities that are contiguous and bounded by New Hampshire and the ocean, making it one of the more "natural geographic areas in the state," according to Kathryn Prael, Tierney's spokeswoman.
She also highlighted the congressman's strong hold on the seat. After defeating Peter Torkildsen by 360 votes in 1996, he has won by comfortable double-digit margins.
Even this fall, when damaging news about his wife's management of her brother's illegal gambling profits surfaced in October, Tierney still captured a 13 percentage-point victory over Republican Bill Hudak, a margin wider than what his counterparts Barney Frank and Niki Tsongas achieved.
Census officials announced at a morning press conference that the country's population was 308,745,538, up 9.7 percent from 281.4 million a decade ago. The new count will determine how $400 billion in federal money will be distributed annually.
Texas will gain four new House seats as a result, and Florida will gain two. Gaining one each are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
Ohio and New York will lose two House seats each. Losing one House seat are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The population growth elsewhere has diminished the political power that was concentrated in the Northeast. A century ago, Massachusetts had 16 seats in Congress.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.