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Boston and Beyond

March 31, 2014

Massachusetts a Democratic bulwark in House seats

BOSTON (AP) — Against a tide of redistricting that helped Republicans maintain control of the U.S. House in 2012, Massachusetts offered a political bulwark for Democrats, who have denied the GOP a seat in the state’s House delegation for nearly two decades.

In Massachusetts, President Obama won 61 percent of the vote compared with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the state’s former governor who won just 38 percent. Obama also won each of the state’s nine House districts.

The Massachusetts experience contrasts sharply with the national trend, where districts drawn by state-level Republican lawmakers helped Romney win 17 more House districts than Obama, even though Obama got 5 million more votes overall.

The districts also allowed the GOP to hold onto a 33-seat House majority even though nationwide Democratic candidates for the House received 1.4 million more votes than their GOP opponents.

In 2011, when Massachusetts lawmakers were drawing the state’s new congressional map, the two biggest questions were how to cut down the number of districts from 10 to nine, reflecting the state’s slow population growth, and how to craft the state’s first “minority-majority” district.

Carving out a safely Republican district wasn’t high on the list.

During the debate, the state’s small Republican Statehouse delegation offered an alternate map that was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Republicans also protested the limited time the public had to review the districts.

The new map did accomplish one thing conservatives had failed to do for decades — persuade longtime Democratic Rep. Barney Frank not to seek re-election. Frank pointed to the prospect of running in a district with 325,000 new constituents as one reason to leave Congress.

Despite their frustration, Massachusetts Republicans still hope to pick up seats in November.

They’re keeping an eye on the state’s 6th Congressional District seat held by incumbent Democratic Rep. John Tierney. Republican Richard Tisei nearly defeated Tierney in 2012 and is challenging him again.

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