The political landscape in Durham and Middlefield would shift under a new reapportionment plan unanimously approved Wednesday by the General Assembly’s Reapportionment Commission.
The plan approved by the commission late in the afternoon would see Durham, all of which is currently part of the 100th House District along with all of Middlefield, now evenly split into two different districts, the 101st, which would also include Madison, and the 86th House District, which would also include the towns of North Branford and Wallingford.
The change would see Middlefield moved into the 82nd District with Meriden. Middlefield is currently part of the 100th House District, which currently includes Durham and a portion of Middletown.
The changes for Middlefield and Durham are sure to cause waves in that part of the central Connecticut region as offiicials and residents from those towns had argued against the move and for a plan that would keep the two rural communities in districts with their neighbors.
“It's wrenching to see the district split," said Lesser. "I love serving the people of Durham, Middlefield, Rockfall and Middletown and I will continue to represent all of my current constituents until January 2013. These are some of the finest towns anywhere, and I will treasure the relationships I have developed for years to come.”
"Hopefully, it'll be like an old family reunion," said the current 82nd District State Rep. Emil "Buddy" Altobello Wednesday evening. In addition to Meriden, Altobello represented the Western half of Middlefield from his 1995 election until the state's last reapportionment 10 years ago.
Since then, Altobello, the Deputy Speaker of the House, has solely represented parts of Meriden. With the new district set to be in place in 2013, if he is re-elected in Nov. 2012, he will represent all of Middlefield.
Aside from moving Middlefield out of the 100th District and into the 82nd with Meriden, the reapportionment commission made no changes in the legislative district lines for Killingworth, Rocky Hill, Portland, Berlin or Haddam, the latter of which remains in the 36th District with Chester, Deep River and Essex.
In the state senate, Meriden's District 13 Senator Len Suzio said Wednesday night that his district would be only slightly affected by the redistricting.
He said that he would lose about 3,200 of his Middletown constitutents. The freshman senator was elected in early 2011 to represent Meriden and Middlefield, and parts of Cheshire and Middletown.
"I've been working very, very hard..." Suzio said. "It's nice to know that I'll be serving the same people."
In Middletown, the reapportionment changes will see the town now divided between the 33rd (Rep. Joseph Serra, D) and 100th (Rep. Matthew Lesser, D) House districts. Currently, Middletown’s legislative district lines places it in four House districts, the 33rd, 100th, 34th (Rep. Gail Hamm, D) and 32nd (Rep. Christie Carpino, R). Some officials from the town had argued that the those district lines made elections confusing and expensive in Middletown and they had argued for a more simplified division of districts.
The Reapportionment Commission unanimously approved both redistricting proposals, which now must go to the Secretary of the State for her approval before they go into effect. The new districts, if approved by the secretary, would be in place for the 2012 General Assembly election cycle.
The commission, which was facing a deadline today to approve the redistricting proposals, was unable to reach consensus on a plan to redraw Connecticut’s congressional district lines. Under state law, the panel must now ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to give it a 30-day extension to draft and approve a plan.
The 9-member commission began work on redrawing the House and Senate districts in April after it was appointed by the legislature. Connecticut law requires that the districts be studied and, if necessary, their lines be redrawn if necessary, following each federal census. The most recent census was conducted in 2010 and showed that Connecticut’s population grew by nearly 5 percent to about 3.6 million people.
Commission leaders said the redistricting effort was a daunting task, but a fair and open process devoid of the political shenanigans that often accompany such efforts in other states.
“We didn’t always agree and sometimes things got hot in the room, but this was a fundamentally bipartisan process,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat.
Maps and reports of the commission’s redistricting plans will be available on the panel’s website sometime Thursday, commission staffers said.