If only Massachusetts wasn’t such a political outlier, the November elections would have been a yawner with Democrats holding serve on all the districts in Massachusetts. But, alas, Massachusetts is an anomaly as is particularly evident today as the new Congress convenes with Republican John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
And while the state maintained the 10 Democratic sweep in the fall, the good news ended there. Republican control of the House means that the perks and privileges of being in the majority – chairmanships and first pick of committee assignments – now belong to the Republicans. This is how you win and lose at the very same instant, and those losses are significant in Massachusetts where Rep. Barney Frank has lost his prized chairmanship over banks and banking and Rep. Ed Markey has lost his chairmanship of an influential subcommittee on energy and environmental issues, and the list goes on.
And it is about to get even more interesting because what also happened last year is that the 2010 US Census declared that our state population had shrunk in proportion to the rest of the country. Translation: We will lose one of our 10 congressional seats, so in 2012 the current delegation will have to compete for nine seats or someone will have to step aside. Even using Washington math, 10 does not go evenly into 9.
So here are the scenarios for getting the math right:
- All 10 incumbents decide they want to run for reelection, which forces two sitting representatives to run against one another in a realigned district;
- One incumbent decides to retire, particularly given the political shift in Congress where Democrats are no longer in charge of the House. The early betting is that Barney Frank, who will be 72 years old in March 2010, will leave, but that theory ignores Frank’s natural inclination to fight.
- Another popular notion is that Rep. Michael Capuano of Somerville will vacate his seat and challenge freshman US Senator Scott Brown in what would be a rerun of Capuano’s campaign in 2009 to fill the unfinished term of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. On paper this makes a lot of sense and Capuano sounds a lot like someone building momentum for 2012. The problem, though, is that Scott Brown is even more popular among Massachusetts voters today than he was when he easily beat Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special election one year ago. Unless he veers wildly off course, there is no reason to believe that voters will bail on him, although Capuano is a tough campaigner and would likely run a better campaign than did Coakley.
- One additional scenario is that the architects of the new congressional map might decide to savage the one freshman in the delegation – Congressman Bill Keating – who succeeded Congressman Bill Delahunt. If Keating loses the northern tier of his district (Quincy) to Congressman Stephen Lynch (S. Boston) that could make Keating a sitting duck to whoever is paired with him for a primary fight.
Of course there are much more important matters to occupy our attention like the sluggish economy, massive national debt and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan (not to mention the unofficial war we are still waging in Iraq). But there is nothing like a good ol’ fashioned political fight to make some people forget all of those problems.