MERIDEN — A westward shift in House district boundaries as a result of last fall’s redistricting could benefit Democrats in the eastern part of the city, but make them more vulnerable in the Cheshire area, city Democrats said.
The 82nd District seat currently held by Democratic state Rep. Michael Quinn lost Middlefield and Rockfall to the 90th House District held by Republican state Rep. Craig Fishbein of Wallingford. The move makes the 82nd another Meriden-only district, which tends to favor Democrats.
The 82nd district currently comprises the east side of Meriden, curving into the north end, and all of Middlefield and Rockfall.
“Essentially what happened was the GOP had a strong interest in Middlefield and Rockfall becoming part of the 90th district, which is currently about half of Wallingford and a part of Cheshire,” Quinn said in an email. “The committee redrawing the House lines agreed to this request, and Middlefield and Rockfall will be part of the 90th when the new legislature assumes office in January 2023.”
The removal of Middlefield and Rockfall from the 82nd returns the district to being an all-Meriden seat, which it had been between 2001 and 2011. By making the change, the 90th lost the part of Cheshire that it had, and the 82nd expanded a little further west and northwest in Meriden, picking up some pieces of the current 83rd and 84th districts.
The 84th District, which covers the city’s downtown, remains an all-Meriden seat. It also expanded west into the current 83rd District. To make up for these changes, the new 83rd now includes part of Cheshire, in addition to part of Berlin and part of Meriden. The 83rd has lost some of its Meriden territory, but still remains a majority Meriden seat.
“By moving Quinn more into Meriden, it’s making his seat more secure,” said Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson. “But the 83rd bumps Cheshire which could make it more vulnerable on the other end.”
City and party officials are still ironing out the street details and new voting districts, Torres-Ferguson said.
“Now the local lines are going to change, and the polling places,” she said. “They’re having talks on that now.”
State Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, who currently represents the 83rd District, said Cheshire is similar in demographics to Berlin, which has always had a presence in the 83rd District. Abercrombie is not seeking reelection this November.
“It would have been exciting meeting new people,” Abercrombie said. “But I’m excited for whoever wins the 83rd.”
Hilda Santiago, who represents the city’s 84th District, said there were minor changes to the district’s boundaries that reflected population growth.
“I picked up some of Broad Street, but some of Sherman Avenue went to the 82nd, probably to diversify it,” Santiago said. “But it’s more of the population growth in the inner core and the affordable housing downtown. But they are still figuring those streets.”
Democratic and Republican registrars of voters will review the GIS maps to redraw the polling districts. If they can’t come to an agreement, the matter goes before the City Council, said Republican City Councilor Dan Brunet.
Quinn said representing a Meriden-only district helps at reelection time.
“Any time a district is comprised of only one community it makes it slightly easier to run for both incumbents and challengers,” Quinn said in an email. “In the 2020 race, I was better known in Meriden because that is where I am from and my opponent was better known in Middlefield and Rockfall because that is where he is from. In the 2022 race, all candidates will be from the same town, so name recognition becomes slightly less of a factor in theory.”
Like most states, Connecticut redraws its legislative and congressional maps shortly after each decennial census, with resulting maps often challenged in court. This was not always the standard practice, however. Four challenges in the early 1960s ultimately led to the rewriting of the state’s constitution to establish a reapportionment procedure, which still exists today.
A bi-partisan committee drew up the new maps and both parties had veto power.
Brunet said his district representative changed from the 83rd to the 82nd but he doesn’t expect major changes in the City Council’s area districts.
Nor does he thinks the house redistricting will benefit either party.
“We haven’t had any population growth to have a council shift,” Brunet said. “I don’t think it benefits either party at the state level or the local level.”
But Meriden Republican Town Chairman Sean McDonald hopes for a potential pickup for Republicans in the 83rd District with Abercrombie’s departure and more suburban Cheshire and Berlin voters. He hasn’t had the opportunity to view all the district maps but sees promise in the 83rd.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting race,” McDonald said.