Not long after Los Angeles police followed O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco down a highway, Reps. Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen became the last Republicans elected to the House of Representatives by the voters of Massachusetts.
The year was 1994.
In every subsequent election, the GOP has fallen short. Even in the massive wave of 2010, not a single Republican managed to eke out a victory. Massachusetts remains a very Democratic place.
The Bay State lost a district in reapportionment, which left the Democratic-controlled Legislature with the unpleasant task of drawing at least two Members of its own party together. The redistricting committee’s burden was eased, however, when Rep. John Olver announced in October that he would retire at the end of the 112th Congress.
Gov. Deval Patrick (D) last week signed a new map into law that shores up almost every incumbent and renumbers some districts. On Monday, longtime Rep. Barney Frank, who would have seen his district change substantially, announced he would not run again in 2012. He said redistricting played a role in his decision to retire two years earlier than he’d planned.
Under the new lines, most of Olver’s old western district is combined into the Springfield-anchored 1st and the Worcester-anchored 2nd. The new map significantly shift a few districts, including Frank’s 4th. But the Members remain pretty safe, save one: Rep. John Tierney was left with a district that is the most competitive in the state. This, coupled with his wife’s legal issues (she pleaded guilty to federal tax charges last year), leaves him vulnerable.
And yet, Massachusetts is still Massachusetts. With President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren at the top of the ticket, generating enthusiasm and helping to turn out base voters in big numbers, it would take a very special set of circumstances to end up with a Bay State Republican getting a House Member pin in 2013.
Incumbent: Richard Neal (D)
12th term (57 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic
Neal’s new district stretches west from his political stronghold of Springfield, the commonwealth’s third-largest city, to encompass all of Berkshire County and the western part of the state. The new 1st is split almost evenly between recent voters currently residing in Olver’s district and Neal’s, so the longtime Congressman and member of the Ways and Means Committee will have to introduce himself to a lot of new constituents. With $2.3 million in cash on hand at the end of September, that shouldn’t be too difficult. The 1st is staunchly Democratic turf, but Neal faces a primary from former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo. It will be a very, very steep climb for Nuciforo, who had $155,000 in the bank at the end of September, to unseat this well-liked Member of the delegation.