September 23, 2011

Could Bristol wind up in the 5th?

Though the redistricting commission won't finish its work for weeks, there is a growing sense in political  circles that when it's done, Bristol will wind up in a different congressional district.
State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr is only one of a number of political figures who have told me to expect that Bristol will land in the 5th District, which is probably the only way it could lose U.S. Rep. John Larson as its congressman.
The thinking is that Larson, an East Hartford Democrat, is so safe in the 1st District that a Democrat-dominated  legislature and a Democratic governor will help nudge the district lines to give Larson a few more Republicans and shift some Democrats into the more closely contested 5th.
Bristol is likely to the place those Democrats come from, if only because it's already surrounded by 5th District towns, with the exception of Southington, which may also find itself in the 5th.
U.S. Rep. John Larson
What would it matter?
Well, Larson is a powerful figure in the Congress, a top ranking Democrat who has an outside shot of becoming speaker of the House whenever the political tides shift back in the Democrats' direction. That's a whole lot of clout -- and where there's clout, there's money. He'd likely have more heft in helping Bristol get flood control cash or a train line or other federal goodie than a newcomer in the 5th from either party.
The 5th District, though, offers a lot more drama.
With U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy giving up the seat to run for U.S. Senate, both parties are eyeing the district as a real battleground.
The state House speaker, Chris Donovan, is campaigning hard to replace Murphy. I've already run into him several times in recent weeks in New Britain.
The Republicans have a slew of potential candidates itching for the opportunity to be the GOP standard bearer next year. I have no clue which of them has the best shot.
But I do know that where they draw the district line is going to have a real impact on Bristol.
The new districts take effect with the 2012 race and will remain in place for at least a decade. That's a long time in politics.
A decade ago, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, a New Britain Republican, represented Bristol in the 6th District. Then Connecticut lost a district and Bristol wound up with Larson while Johnson landed in the ultra-competitive 5th District. She held on until Murphy knocked her out in 2006, a really bad year for moderate Republicans.
There's not much anybody in Bristol can do about district lines. It's always a game played at a much higher level.
But don't be surprised if the city finds itself in the middle of a hotly contested congressional contest next year.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

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