FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — State lawmakers on Monday unveiled proposed new congressional maps for Massachusetts that would put all of Fall River into the 4th District represented by freshman Democrat Jake Auchincloss.

For the last decade, Fall River has been split roughly in half, with the northern side of the city in Auchincloss’s 4th District and the southern side in the 9th District, represented by six-term Democrat Bill Keating.

The decision — which still needs to be ratified by legislators and the governor — could strengthen Auchincloss against a potential progressive primary challenge by giving him a bigger toehold in Southeastern Massachusetts, where he ran strongly in 2020.

“I am thrilled that all of Fall River will now be in the district,” Auchincloss said in a statement.

“The voters of the Fourth will continue to come from urban, suburban, and farmland communities,” he said. “They will continue to vote both blue and red. They will continue to commute to both Boston and Providence.”

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(credit: Massachusetts Legislature)

Keating — who was first elected in 2010 and whose current 9th District stretches from Fall River out to Cape Cod and the Islands — reacted unhappily to the proposal.

The new maps are a blow to New Bedford leaders and progressive activists who have spent months pushing Beacon Hill to create a new district that would unite both South Coast cities in one district.

“While we’re glad that the Redistricting Committee’s proposed map makes Fall River whole, it also misses a critical opportunity to better ensure that the immigrant, working-class communities of Fall River and New Bedford are united and empowered politically to elect candidates of their choice,” Dax Crocker, a member of the Drawing Democracy Coalition Steering Committee, said in a statement.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell criticized the new maps on Twitter:

State Sen. Mark Montigny, a longtime New Bedford Democrat, joined in the criticism:

During hearings over the summer, state Sen. Mike Moran — a co-chair of the redistricting panel — argued it would be difficult for lawmakers to redraw the lines in Southeastern Massachusetts without a domino effect that could dilute the voting power of racial minorities in the 7th District to the north, represented by Democrat Ayanna Pressley.

Also removed from the 4th District, according to a person familiar with the new maps: part of Wellesley, all of Hopkinton, Medway, and Easton.

Added to the 4th District in addition to southern Fall River are Mendon, Millville, Blackstone and Sherborn.

Public comment on the new congressional maps will be accepted until Nov. 9, the day a public hearing on them is scheduled to be held.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) 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 and Facebook