It’s a long way away, but WRNI’s Scott MacKay reports Rhode Island is on track to lose one of its two remaining U.S. House seats following the 2020 Census:
While Rhode Island narrowly escaped losing a U.S. House seat in the 2010 U.S. census, the outlook for 2020 is bleak.
That’s the word from Kimball Brace, the reapportionment expert who has been involved in drawing legislative and congressional districts in the state since the early 1980s. …
The competition for Rhode Island’s seat comes from Montana, which has a population of about 994,000, compared to our state’s 1,052,567, Brace says. But Montana’s population is growing much faster than Rhode Island’s, which doesn’t bode well for our state hanging on to both House seats.
If a year is a lifetime in politics, a decade is an eon. But the scenario outlined by Scott means that, theoretically, the 2022 election could see Rhode Island’s two sitting House members battling to represent the single at-large district left after the next round of national redistricting.
If that happened today it would mean Congressman Jim Langevin fighting Congressman David Cicilline, unless one of them stepped aside, which sometimes happens in these situations. And since they’re both Democrats, the real fight would be in the Democratic primary for the at-large seat, rather than in the November general election.
All hugely speculative, of course – though keep an eye on Massachusetts, which is about to go through exactly that process as it loses one of its 10 House seats thanks to the new Census. The Boston Herald’s Howie Carr suggested Wednesday that U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, will be the odd man out in the Bay State.
If Langevin and Cicilline do hold onto their seats until 2022 – a big if, but hardly implausible – the former Providence mayor will need to spend the next decade building his popularity statewide in order to defeat Langevin for the at-large seat. Langevin’s favorable rating was 50% compared with Cicilline’s 34% in the Public Policy Polling survey I wrote about last month.
Losing one of our two House seats would also change the dynamic inside Rhode Island’s four-man congressional delegation. The state has been sending four people to Congress since 1932 – two senators and two House members – after losing its third U.S. House seat because of the 1930 Census.
Come 2022, Rhode Island’s remaining at-large congressman could be more like a third senator – though without all the power that an individual senator has under that body’s individualist rules.
One place where that dynamic has been in evidence is Delaware, which has had only one at-large House member for years – the state’s former Rep. Mike Castle was as well-known as a senator statewide, though that didn’t save him from defeat at the hands of Christine O’Donnell in last year’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.
(photo: City of Providence)