|Out with the old....|
By Will Collette
The new maps showing the leading proposals for redistricting legislative districts in Rhode Island came out yesterday. Every ten years, we go through this political drama as we change the shape of legislative districts so that they have roughly equal numbers of voters, based on the latest census.
Yesterday, we looked at the House maps for southern Rhode Island which showed two options for the new shape of our local politics. Today, we look at the three Senate options on the table. These maps could mean a different line-up of state senators in southern Rhode Island after the 2012 election.
First, here's what the map looks like today, based on the old 2000 census:
- Senate District 34, which includes part of Charlestown, is represented by second-term conservative Francis Maher (R). I've never seen this guy and couldn't tell you anything he's done for Charlestown.
- District 35, Senator Dawson Tucker Hodgson, a first-term conservative Republican, Until I looked at his photo today, I couldn't pick this guy out of a line-up. He has not had a very impressive first term.
- District 36, Senator James Sheehan (D) who has served since 2007
- District 37, Senator Sue Sosnowski, a progressive Democrat who has served since 1996. A farmer, she has a strong environmental record, especially on "grow local" and helping the Rhode Island fishing industry to survive.
- District 38, Senator Dennis Algiere who is an endangered species, a "moderate" Republican, who has served since 1992. In the past, Algiere has either run unopposed or crushed his opponent. He may face some questions in 2012 regarding his relative, Laura Reale.
Senate districts tend to have double the population of House districts and cover a lot of ground - look no further than Francis Maher's District 34.
Here are the three versions of redistricting currently in contention for the Senate.
This version comes closest to matching the status quo, except for extending James Sheehan's District 36 into a huge crescent that wraps around Sue Sosnowski's District 37. Here's Version B:
In Version B Sheehan's District 36 and Dawson Tucker Hodson's District 35 almost seem to exchange places as Hodgson's district would twist and turn through South County, wrapping around Sue Sosnowski's district and grabbing Block Island from her.. Under Version A, Sue kept Block Island, long one of her strongholds. Bear in mind that South Kingstown, the heart of Sosnowski country had one of the biggest population gains in the state, while Narragansett, Sheehan's core, lost population. Thus, to balance the populations, Sosnowski will have to give up territory and Sheehan has to gain to produce a legal result. Under Version B, Sheehan scores Jamestown.
Here's Version C:
Version C is the most radical departure from the status quo. Dennis Algiere's safe District 38 loses most it's Westerly base and now becomes centered on Charlestown, plus it picks up Block Island from Sue Sosnowski. Sheehan's District 36 looks more like the status quo than Version B, although like Version B, he picks up Jamestown.
Redistricting is where politics meets demographics, and GIS geeks fight it out with folks who analyzed 10 years' worth of precinct voting records. I said yesterday that this is the most "inside baseball" you can get in politics.
The hearing for South County comes first - Wednesday, November 30, 7 p.m., South Kingstown High School, 215 Columbia Street, Wakefield (Washington County).
Click here to see the time line for this process. To see the official maps, full-sized, click here.