UPDATED at 7 p.m.
Under a plan released today by the Legislature's Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, Tewksbury would be moved out of the 5th Congressional District of Rep, Niki Tsongas.
The plan, which has the chance to radically shift the political landscape in Massachusetts, would move Tewksbury into the 6th Congressional District presently represented by Rep. John Tierney of Salem.
Also being shifted to Tierney's 6th District would be Billerica and a portion of Andover.
(Attached is a JPEG image of the proposed new Congressional Districts and a PDF document of the existing districts.)
The recommendation of the committee came as a shock to several Tewksbury officials. Early indications were that Tsongas' District would remain intact. However, when Congressman John Olver (D-1st District) announced a couple of weeks ago he would not seek re-election, the committee had the opportunity to redraw the districts in the Central and Western parts of the state.
That move set in motion a chain-reaction and Tsongas' district changed dramatically. It now stretches from Haverhill in the east, all the way to Winchendon to the west.
Tewksbury Selectmen Todd Johnson and Doug Sears both applauded the work done by Tsongas on behalf of Tewksbury and expressed regret at the committee's recommendation.
"I think this will be a real loss to Tewksbury," said Johnson. "She and, I hvae to add, her staff, have worked cooperatively with local officials to improve life for the residents of Tewksbury."
Johnson made special note of the work done by Tsongas regarding the I-93 interchange project and efforts to prevent local access to residential areas of South Tewksbury from the highway, sentiment echoed by Sears.
"I have felt that Niki Tsongas was responsive to Tewksbury's needs, especially as concerned the 93 Interchange proposed for South Tewksbury," said Sears. "I am not impressed by John Tierney. Gridlock when in Washington and when at home he is not even in touch enough to know his wife was laundering money under his own roof for her brothers."
Tierney said he feels his new towns have a gret deal in common with the existing towns in the 6th District.
“The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting had a difficult job to do and it is gratifying to learn that they were responsive to the many people who attended their public hearing and sent in communications asking that the existing 6th district communities be kept together," said Tierney, in a statement released to Patch.
"The residents of Billerica, Tewksbury and a part of Andover will recognize a lot of commonality with other Sixth District communities. I look forward to becoming acquainted with new neighbors, meeting with existing friends there, and listening to people's concerns and ideas. I thank the State Legislators for their hard work,” Tierney added.
Tsongas said she was disappointed to be losing Tewksbury and the other communities but said she would not be a "lame duck" representative.
“It is difficult to lose some communities that I have been privileged to represent since being elected in 2007 and between now and the next election, I will continue to represent them to the fullest extent," said Tsongas. "I will also remain committed to ongoing economic development projects, like the critical Lowell Junction I-93 interchange, and other initiatives that my office has worked on and that strengthen our region as a whole.”
Congressional and legislative districts are adjusted every 10 years based on the latest U.S. Census data. Because Massachusetts had a significant population drop between 2000 and 2010, it was forced to reduce its congressional districts from 10 to nine.
In the reshuffling of legislative districts, Precincts 3 and 3A, which had been part of Rep. Paul Adams' 17th Essex District, were switched to the 18th Essex District of Rep. John Lyons, R-Andover.
If approved by the full Legislature as expected, the changes will go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2013.
We will be getting reaction from Tewksbury municipal leaders, as well as Tsongas and Tierney and will continue to update this story.