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Census Numbers Could Mean Congressional Shakeup

BOSTON (CBS) -- Tomorrow could bring bad news for the Bay State.

Official census numbers are being released in the morning, and they are widely expected to mean we are going to lose a member of congress. That would be the first time the state has lost a representative in the U.S. House since 1990.

Going from 10 members to nine means many things -- not the least of which is that the state's congressional districts will need to be redrawn to accommodate the new reality.

Political scientist and congressional watcher David King isn't overly optimistic about the process here in Massachusetts. "We have a long history of relatively corrupt and not transparent redistricting [in Massachusetts]," said King. "Maybe that'll change this time; it certainly hasn't changed in the past… Underneath it is brutal, hand to hand, party combat."

WBZ-TV's Jim Armstrong reports.

Even if Massachusetts manages to keep all 10 of its representatives through an unexpected demographic development, district lines will still have to be redrawn to adjust for shifting populations. The same scenario will play out in all 50 states, whether or not a state gains or loses members of congress.

Redistricting can get really ugly in states with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. But with decisions on redistricting coming from Democrat-controlled Beacon Hill and with an all-Democrat U.S. House delegation, one might expect the process to go more smoothly here. But it doesn't always work that way.

King, who teaches courses on congressional politics at Harvard, says the Democrats' control here just "means they're not going to line up and destroy any specific Republicans. Instead, they're going to have a circular firing squad and figure out which one of the Democrats in congress won't have a chair left when the music stops."

King thinks Rep. John Tierney is most at risk, given his wife's recent federal tax problems. "Also his district has changed demographically quite a bit," adds King. "So it looks like his district is the one people are going to destroy."

WBZ asked for a response from Congressman Tierney's office. He released a statement that reads in part, "Since the Civil War, the Sixth Congressional District has been an Essex County seat and the cities and towns comprising the district have remained relatively consistent. . .There will be many announcements and discussions during the next few months, but I am confident that our district will stay together."

Secretary of State William Galvin won't make predictions about who will or won't lose their seat, but he does think state lawmakers should strongly consider seeking outside help re-drawing lines.

"I think it would be good have multiple proposals from demographers and other people who might be able provide some assistance in this process, and make it more open," explains Galvin. But, he cautions, "I haven't had a lot of takers so far."

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