On Tuesday, the Legislature will vote on a map that will redraw the lines of our state’s congressional districts.
Legislative Republicans have put forth a plan that would drastically change our current district lines, moving 360,000 Maine people in seven counties and 139 municipalities.
The Democratic plan, which was narrowly endorsed by the legislative reapportionment commission, moves fewer than 20,000 people in a small number of communities.
During the public hearing on both plans, I traveled to Augusta to argue against the radical Republican proposal that would move Rockland and the remainder of Knox County into the 2nd Congressional District. Most of the approximately 50 people who testified agreed — the Republican proposal is too radical. I urged the commission members not to support the Republican plan, which would use Knox County as a pawn in an inappropriate political game.
Rockland has been located in Maine’s 1st Congressional District for 50 years. We share strong economic, cultural and tourism ties with communities to our south, especially those midcoast and south-coast towns and cities currently located in the 1st Congressional District.
Shifting communities with shipyards, ties to the offshore islands and other important marine interests to the 2nd District where forestry, farming and other land based economies are so important is not fair to the residents of either district.
And it would damage the abilities of our members of Congress to properly represent us.
Remember, both of our U.S. senators represent the entire state of Maine. Representatives primarily represent their congressional district. Why would anyone suggest forcing Knox County’s member of Congress to also represent Jackman and Greenville?
Rep. Chellie Pingree understands the particular problems of our offshore island communities, the challenges of marine-dependent occupations and the needs of the coastal economy so well, as did others like former 1st Distict Rep. David Emery. For any group to seek radical change in that pattern is just plain wrong. In this particular case, I feel it is also mean spirited and unfairly politically partisan.
The Rockland City Council unanimously adopted a resolve opposing any redistricting proposal that would move Rockland and the remainder of Knox County from the 1st District to the 2nd District. We felt that drawing the lines of congressional districts is very serious business.
When the political aspirations of either political party violate the economic, cultural and tourism needs of a significant portion of our population, then we all must question the motives of those aspirations.
During last year’s gubernatorial race, Gov. Paul LePage emphasized putting people before politics. The radical redistricting plan now proposed by Republican legislators is a blatant example of putting politics first and Maine people a distant second. I hope our governor will not support this radical redistricting plan. I urge the Legislature to reject it and adopt the sensible and less disruptive Democratic plan supported by the Redistricting Commission. This is a case where many of us cry out for putting people before politics.
Brian Harden is the mayor of Rockland.