Olver alters math of redistricting

Congressman reverses course, says he will retire

Congressman John Olver of Amherst plans to retire at the end of the current session, the 11th term Democrat announced Wednesday, altering the dynamics facing state lawmakers as they look to carve up the state’s 10 Congressional districts.

Olver’s decision could change the way members of a Redistricting Committee reconfigure the boundaries of the districts since Massachusetts is losing one of its 10 seats.  Until now, the committee has been working based on assertions from all 10 members of the state’s U.S. House delegation that they will run for reelection next year.

Faced with the job of drawing a map with one fewer district to account for the state’s loss of a seat due to population shifts nationwide, committee members have been mulling maps pitting members of the state’s delegation in the same district as they focus on a majority-minority district centered around Boston.

Rep. Michael Moran and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, the co-chairs of the committee, issued a joint statement Wednesday afternoon thanking Olver for his over four decades in public service, including time in the state Senate.

“We wish the Congressman and his family well during his final year serving in Congress and wish them all the best in the future. This is a dramatic change, and the committee in the coming days will assess its impact on Congressional Redistricting,” the statement said.

Olver, 75, had previously declared his intention to run for re-election in 2012, and with Congressman Richard Neal, of Springfield, has been fighting to preserve two Congressional districts based in western Massachusetts.

Olver’s sudden announcement could also complicate the plans of potential challengers such as former state senator and current Register of Deeds of the Berkshire Middle District Andrea Nuciforo.

In a statement, Olver said, “Since 1991, I have had the privilege and great honor of representing the people of the First District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The district has grown much larger from the district as it was in 1991, and these twenty years have been tumultuous years for America.  Last December, I announced that I intended to seek to continue my congressional service beyond 2012.  Over the past six months, circumstances within my family have substantially changed, and I now find I must reconsider my earlier decision. Therefore, I will retire from the House of Representatives at the conclusion of the current (112th) Congress.”

Olver’s current district runs from the New York border through several counties and as far east as Fitchburg.

Olver’s wife, Rose, has been battling ovarian cancer since being diagnosed in March.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
Rosenberg, also of Amherst, once worked as an aide to Olver during his time in Congress and has expressed interest in the past in running for Congress. Rosenberg is also undergoing treatment for cancer and has expressed optimism about making a full recovery.

Olver is among Massachusetts delegation members holding ranking minority positions on committees. Republicans control the House but Democrats have hopes of taking it back in 2013. If they do, senior Democrats, including others in the Massachusetts delegation, could be positioned to retake powerful slots in the House.

State Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) offered a statement in response to Olver’s news. “Our area has benefitted greatly from the honest intelligent service of John Olver for 20 years,” Brewer said. “He has ennobled the term public service and I wish him and Rose well.  We will have lost a powerful advocate for Central and Western Massachusetts with his retirement,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), 16 of the 29 towns that make up Brewer’s Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Senate district are represented by Olver.”