Monday, January 31, 2011 • 12:43 PM Comments ()

What's Next for The Congressman?

posted by Maureen Turner

Did you know that U.S. Rep. Richie Neal spent a whopping $2.2 million during the last election to hold off a challenge from Republican Tom Wesley, a Tea Party guy from the central Mass. reaches of his sprawling district?

I didn’t, until last week, when I had the great fun of sitting down for caffeinated and baked treats with Tom Devine, the Valley blogger/pundit and one of my favorite go-to people on all this historical and political about Springfield. (Devine and I have these coffee date/gossip fests a few times a year, where we say some ungenerous things about pols who deserve no less, then solve all the problems facing the city. Alas, no one with any real power has yet to ask us for our advice.

As we chatted, Devine offered an interesting analysis of Neal’s political concerns and his future, which has since made its way on to his blog. Devine notes that Neal’s major cash hemorrhage was especially striking in comparison to his opponent’s own comparatively meager funds ($123,000) and low profile, especially here in the western part of the district.

And from there, Devine moves on to one of the most intriguing developing political stories in the region: the expected loss of one of the two congressional seats that represent western Mass. With national population patterns shifting away from the northeast, Massachusetts is due to lose one of its 10 representatives in the House. “That means that if all ten incumbents want to run for re-election, one of them is going to have to be forced to run against a fellow incumbent,” Devine writes. “And if you know anything about the way things are done in Massachusetts politics, it ain’t gonna be somebody in Boston who is going to have that problem. As usual they will shaft—I mean shift—that difficulty to us here in the Wild West, and make our two congressmen, Neal and John Olver of Amherst, do an electoral duel to the death in a Democrat Party primary.”

So far, both Neal and Olver have said they intend to run for re-election. But Devine posits another scenario: Olver opting to retire, opening the way for that duel to the death to instead take place between Neal and state Sen. Stan Rosenberg, whom Devine describes as “widely considered to be Olver’s hand-picked heir.”

“My personal opinion is that if it is a Neal versus Olver Democrat primary, Neal will win because of his relative youth and the lopsided margin the Democrat machine in Springfield can deliver to Neal to overcome all the small towns that comprise Olver’s base.” Devine writes. “However, a Neal versus Rosenberg race, now that’s a whole other story.”

Stayed tuned; 2012’s not so far away.

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