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Will the CD1 shuffle backfire on Cicilline?

December 14, 2011

As we know, US Representative David Cicilline would gain some serious electoral upside next year through the deletion of three GOP-leaning towns from the First Congressional District. Yet the latest proposed changes to CD1 also carry one disadvantage for the incumbent: they reinforce the narrative held by the critics who can’t stand Cicilline.  

These critics aren’t alone in thinking the former Providence mayor glossed over that city’s fiscal problems while vaulting into Congress. And they’ll certainly echo Brendan Doherty and John Loughlin in painting the CD1 shuffle as a slippery political maneuver.

It’s not exactly news that pols exploit the advantages of incumbency (like how Cicilline effectively transferred political contributions he collected for a mayoral run into his campaign for the House). In the same way, redistricting has a longstanding and justly deserved reputation as a way to boost incumbents and punish enemies.

Cicilline’s camp is framing an increase of Democratic voters in CD1 as a welcome concept, albeit one that it didn’t dictate (Cicilline’s close relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox notwithstanding.)  

But a Republican challenger wouldn’t have to look far to make campaign commercials about the redistricting imbroglio — they could use the sharp criticism from the camp of Cicilline’s fellow Democrat, James Langevin. There’s also the fact that Cicilline and his former press secretary previously supported a far more limited approach to redrawing congressional lines.

Whether a GOP challenger can make hay from all that will depend on his moxie — and far more consequently, the fundraising that will translate into TV campaign commercials.

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