FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A group of prominent political, civic and business leaders in Fall River on Friday came out in support of proposed congressional maps that unify the city in the 4th Congressional District but split it off from New Bedford.
The maps have been a subject of increasing controversy on the South Coast all week. Democratic Congressman Bill Keating, whose 9th District currently includes all of New Bedford and about half of Fall River, has lambasted the decision to decouple the two South Coast cities. Similar criticism has been offered by former Congressman Joe Kennedy III and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.
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But Democratic Congressman Jake Auchincloss — who succeeded Kennedy this year and has made clear he wants to keep Fall River in the 4th District — has praised the maps and worked to marshal support for them. (Auchincloss and Kennedy both live in Newton, at the northern edge of the 4th District.)
The statement was released by state Rep. Carole Fiola, a member of the legislative committee which drew the proposed maps. Other prominent signatories include erstwhile rivals Mayor Paul Coogan and City Council President Cliff Ponte, as well as veteran state Rep. Pat Haddad, former Fall River Mayor John Mitchell, and former state Sen. Joan Menard.
“Fall River will be the biggest city in the Massachusetts 4th and will no longer stand in any community’s shadow or be second to another community’s needs — it will stand as its own city, not as part of a region, and will be front and center for its U.S. representative to champion,” they wrote.
The statement also suggested the signatories prefer to cast Fall River’s lot with Auchincloss — who has courted the city assiduously since narrowly winning last year’s Democratic primary for the 4th District — rather than with Keating, who has represented Fall River for the last decade.
“The current congressman, Jake Auchincloss, has already built strong relationships here and advocated effectively for funding for Fall River’s water infrastructure, urban renewal, and public safety,” they wrote. “He has been visible in our city, and he has delivered quality constituent services.”
Notably, no state senators signed onto Fiola’s statement, and Beacon Hill observers have suggested there may be more opposition to splitting the South Coast in the Senate than in the House. Veteran local Democratic state Sens. Mark Montigny and Michael Rodrigues have both spoken out against the maps.
A hearing on the redistricting plan is scheduled for Tuesday.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram