Redistricting Splits Haverhill Into Two Senate Districts; Vargas Says Plan Weakens City Voters

One of Haverhill’s two proposed Senate districts is shaped like a “dragon.”

A proposed state Senate redistricting plan, presented Tuesday, would break off a portion of Haverhill and add it to a new district also comprised of the whole of Lawrence and Methuen.

The proposal creates a majority non-white district that has been described as “dragon-shaped.” The Haverhill “head” portion would have its southern border along the Merrimack River and its “neck” includes the industrial portion of Bradford to make its narrow Methuen connection. To the north, the Haverhill portion would conclude in the Acre and end at Main Street to the east. While intended to encourage a minority seat, Rep. Andy X. Vargas, who has been eyeing a run for state Senate, said it may actually take away his opportunity.

“You don’t have to be a math genius, but obviously this makes it more difficult for a Haverhill candidate to win a Senate seat,” he told WHAV.

Vargas said “everything is now on the table” as he considers his future. “But, ultimately, this isn’t really about me. At the end of the day, I’m good with continuing to serve in the House with a focus on Haverhill if we need to, but this is really about diluting the power of Haverhill voters here,” he added.

As WHAV reported Monday, Vargas was joined by other area legislators, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini and the Haverhill City Council in urging Senate leadership not to split individual gateway cities, such as Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence. Vargas told WHAV there will be a public hearing Friday where Haverhill can make its case against the plan.

The ethnicity of the proposed district would be 59.1% of Hispanic origin, 38.5% white and 5.5% black. The total percentage exceeds 100% presumably because of overlap and rounding. Although Haverhill must also change some of its precincts because of population growth, the Senate district impacts at least six different precincts with neighbors divided between Senate districts.

Sen. William Brownsberger, who co-chaired the special committee, said the only way to craft a Lawrence-area district in a way to avoid diluting Hispanic or Latino voters’ voices was to include part of Haverhill. The rest of Haverhill would be in a district with Wilmington, Tewksbury, Andover, North Andover, Merrimac and Amesbury.

The map Senate Democrats unveiled would avoid pitting any sitting senators against one another in a chamber where Republicans hold just three seats currently. Haverhill’s current state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is not seeking re-election as she campaigns for state auditor. Besides the new Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen district, it would also create another incumbent-free district comprised of Everett, Chelsea, Charlestown and eastern portions of Cambridge.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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