The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 9, 2001


Redistricting may split Chelmsford and Cleven's district
Carlisle's state representative, Republican Carol Cleven, was jolted last week, as the state Senate approved a redistricting plan that would splinter her district, leaving her to run against incumbent Democrat Thomas A. Golden of Lowell. Since Carlisle constitutes one "precinct," it cannot be split and will remain in the 14

Much of the pressure to divide towns like Chelmsford and Acton, comes from the
Representiative Carol Cleven
"one person, one vote" mandate requiring equal representation in each of Massachusetts' 160 House districts, in this case, a population of 39,682 plus or minus 5 percent. As Atkins wrote in a guest column in The Concord Journal last week, because one-precinct towns like Carlisle cannot be divided, redistricting without dividing the larger towns becomes impossible.

What happened to Cleven is "terrible," Carlisle Republican Town Committee chair Charles Parker commented in a telephone interview. Since Cleven is "more liberal than most Massachusetts Republicans," Parker suggested that she, like Congressman Martin Meehan of Lowell, has been a target of House Speaker Thomas Finneran. "Finneran [is] not too thoughtful and unsympathetic and uncaring about the needs of suburbs," Parker added.

Other political observers have suggested that the Speaker might have used redistricting to eliminate female legislators in particular, or to punish disloyalty. Still others suggest that Cleven's woes might be due to Republicans, especially minority leader Francis L. Marini. A Globe article last week suggested that Cleven might be "paying the price" for supporting challenges to Marini's leadership, by opposing the death penalty in 1997(which failed by one vote), an income-tax rollback last year, and for supporting abortion rights and adoption for same-sex couples.

"They've . . . told me I voted the wrong way. And I say, "I haven't voted the wrong way. I've voted how I feel," Cleven told the Globe reporter.

According to Elizabeth Mahoney of state senator Susan Fargo's office, the redistricting plan approved by the Senate is expected to be approved by the full House sometime this week. Then acting governor Jane Swift, who has thus far declined to intervene on Cleven's behalf, will have 10 days to sign or veto the plan. However, Cleven expects Democrats will have enough votes to override any possible veto by the governor.

Cleven is "very disappointed," she said in a telephone interview, not only for herself but because the town of Chelmsford will lose its representation, despite assurances from the redistricting committee that her district would be kept intact. She feels she didn't have a fair chance to suggest modifications that would have preserved more of her district, since she learned of the plan on a Wednesday and the vote was the following Monday.

The Town of Chelmsford considered a suit but was discouraged by an estimated cost of $180,000. However, such a lawsuit could force a revision of the plan by the legislature or by an independent, court-appointed person.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito