EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 15, 2013

Proposal would separate Pelham from Hudson

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM — A freshman state legislator is trying to give Pelham a new kind of Independence Day.

Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham, would set up the town as a standalone House district outside the normal voter redistricting process.

Takesian’s House Bill 197, as now written, would give Pelham four seats in the House, leaving Hudson with seven from the shared district.

“We’re the biggest district in Southern New Hampshire,” Takesian said.

Census estimates show the district had a population of about 40,000 in 2010.

“That’s crazy,” Takesian said. “That is not what New Hampshire is about.”

Even large cities in the state have districts aligned with voting wards, she said.

“This is more like a Senate district than a House district,” she said.

Takesian expects there will be opposition to her bill and constitutional arguments over the proposal.

The Legislature recently completed redistricting, which aims to balance districts by population as closely as possible, every 10 years.

Takesian maintains the state Constitution doesn’t prohibit redistricting more frequently.

“It doesn’t say you can’t,” she said.

A lawmaker from Hudson, Democrat Mary Ann Knowles, has signed on as co-sponsor.

“I think it is the fair thing to do,” Knowles said. “I have felt that in my last two terms that I have represented Pelham.”

Knowles concedes she isn’t a constitutional scholar and isn’t sure what the Legislature will conclude.

“I wanted to basically go on record saying that something should have been done,” she said.

Knowles said she was bothered that there had been agreement among local lawmakers to make Pelham a standalone district, until Rep. William O’Brien, then speaker, convinced them to keep the town in a combined district with Hudson.

“This is something I feel was pushed through by the former speaker,” Knowles said.

Takesian said it is difficult to run from Pelham and get elected because Hudson’s population is twice that of Pelham.

She said she benefitted from Republican support in Hudson as well as Pelham residents who refused to vote for candidates from Hudson.

“Pelham people voted for me in almost a bullet vote,” Takesian said.