Lynch: Don’t break up Irish neighborhoods
As a legislative committee at the State House weighs a revamping of the state’s political boundaries due to the pending loss of a Congressional seat, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch this week called for his Ninth Congressional District to remain largely intact, citing its high concentration of Irish Americans as one reason for a status quo approach.
Like his Congressional colleagues, Lynch, who represents parts of Dorchester, did not offer up a specific solution to the committee, which held its last public hearing on Monday; he just urged members to keep the shape of his district similar to its current form.
As part of his testimony, Lynch noted the high concentration of people with Irish lineage in his district.
“New Census figures show that in addition to the traditional Irish-American neighborhoods in the city of Boston, eight of the towns in the 9th Congressional District have the highest concentration of Irish surnames in the state, positioning the current 9th as the most Irish in the nation and home to the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton,” Lynch told the committee.
Lynch also noted that courts have put emphasis on redistricting plans which respect “existing political subdivisions.” As an example, he said, at one point during in the state’s redistricting process, which occurs every ten years, several minority-majority neighborhoods were added to the neighboring Eighth Congressional District in order to increase the voting power of minority voters.
That effort preserved the contiguity of “largely traditional Irish wards and precincts” in Dorchester, South Boston, West Roxbury, Hyde Park and Roslindale, Lynch said.
Pressed by reporters as to what he thinks should be done to eliminate one Congressional seat, Lynch demurred.
“I think that’s the job of the committee, right? I’d rather not.”
Lynch added: “Well, you know, in an ideal world, someone would choose not to run again, I guess. And that would make it a lot simpler, I think.”
Lynch said he hadn’t ruled out running for U.S. Senate against Republican Scott Brown, but added that he planned to run for reelection in 2012.
“I haven’t ruled it out. But it’s one of those things – I don’t have to make a decision on that yet,” he said of a potential Senate run.
When asked about the possibility of adding Quincy, a part of the 10th Congressional district that has many Irish Americans who migrated from neighboring Boston, to his Congressional district, Lynch said, “I’ve heard varying proposals out there and I don’t know how that’s going to work out. I really don’t. There are some natural – that whole area going from Boston down to the South Shore has been a natural migration pattern, if you will. Most of my family is already down there.”
Union members attended the hearing to support Lynch. State Rep. Martin Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat and a top union official, called for keeping both the Eighth and Ninth Congressional Districts “intact as much as possible.”
The compactness of the district, ranking second out of the ten current districts, is a factor to keeping it intact, Lynch said in testimony to the committee. The district runs through South Boston and down through Dorchester, to Milton, Brockton and 18 towns.
He can usually drive from one end of his district to the other in 45 minutes, Lynch said. “The compactness of the district allows me to personally attend and address town meetings throughout the year and to meet one-on-one with the elected officials, community leaders and the people who we represent,” he said.
Having won re-election in Nov. 2010 by a 68 percent to 26 percent margin, Lynch also said that he received the “highest margin of victory of any Congressman in a contested election in New England.”
A Norwood selectwoman who showed up to testify in support of keeping the Ninth intact praised Lynch and told the committee she was willing to volunteer if Lynch ran for U.S. Senate.
The co-chair of the redistricting committee, state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, joked that the mention of a Congressman running for Senate got his “antennae” up. “That would have solved all of our problems,” he quipped.