EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 26, 2011

Proposal would create Latino-heavy legislative districts — and make targets out of Baddour and Finegold

LAWRENCE — A new proposal for state legislative districts could give Merrimack Valley Latinos a stronger voice in electing area politicians to Beacon Hill — but possibly at the expense of current legislators including state Senators Barry Finegold and Steven Baddour.

The Dominican American National Roundtable created proposals to restructure Merrimack Valley voting districts for two new state representative districts and one new state senate district to maximize the numbers of Latino residents living in the districts.

Under the proposal, Finegold, D-Andover, would lose Lawrence from his district. And Baddour, D-Methuen, would have Lawrence added into his district.

The Dominican group offered the proposals to the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting at their Lawrence hearing on June 13. The 24-member committee is tasked with redrawing boundaries for federal and state legislative districts for the next 10 years based on new population numbers from the 2010 Census.

The proposal creates two state representative districts — one for east Lawrence and one for west Lawrence — that each have more than 70 percent Latino representation. The proposal also calls for a state senate seat that combines Lawrence with the eastern half of Methuen, most of Haverhill and a small piece of Andover — creating a district with 44 percent Latino representation, according to the numbers provided in the plan.

Maria Teresa Feliciano, the president of the Dominican American National Roundtable, said the districts will reflect and strengthen the populations that already exist.

"We're not bringing Latinos and putting them in a place," Feliciano said. "They already are there."

But the districts — particularly the state senate district — could spell trouble for Merrimack Valley incumbents.

Now in his first term as state senator, Finegold needed a 6,000-vote margin in Lawrence to overcome narrow margins in the other three district towns to win his seat in 2010.

"If Lawrence gets chopped out of his district, he loses a big asset in Lawrence and that's Mayor (William) Lantigua and his ability to help deliver the Hispanic vote," said Richard Padova, a professor of history and government at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

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