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N.H. House Republican proposes new congressional map; Democrats Kuster and Pappas would reside in same district

A photo of the proposed map from Rep. Ross Berry
Rep. Ross Berry
A proposed map from Rep. Ross Berry creates a new district along the Interstate 93 corridor.

Rep. Ross Berry, a Manchester Republican who serves on the legislative committee drafting up new congressional districts, is releasing his own proposed map as GOP lawmakers seek to resolve an impasse with Gov. Chris Sununu over redistricting.

Berry’s map, which will come up for a committee vote on Wednesday with no public hearing, combines towns and cities that straddle Interstate 93, including Salem, Derry, Manchester and Concord, to form a new 1st Congressional District.

Sununu, however, criticized Berry's proposal shortly after it was released.

"The people of New Hampshire are counting on the House Special Committee on Redistricting to deliver a map that holds our incumbents accountable and keeps our districts competitive," said Sununu in a statement. "We are still not there."

Under Berry's plan, Democrat Annie Kuster, a five-term incumbent who resides in Hopkinton, would no longer live in the 2nd Congressional District, which she has represented for 10 years.

“I did not build districts around incumbents or candidates,” Berry said. “To put it plainly, I don’t build maps around politicians.”

Under his proposal, the new 2nd District would wrap around the 1st, combining Seacoast towns with the North Country, Upper Valley and Monadnock Region.

“I am an I-93 guy. I’ve always lived on I-93 in the state,” Berry said. “We are currently not together as an economic community.”

a close up view of the new CD1
Courtesy of Rep. Ross Berry
A close up view of the newly proposed 1st Congressional District.

House GOP lawmakers originally proposed a map that would have shifted 75 towns to new districts, with Republicans gaining an edge in the 1st District while essentially conceding the 2nd District to Democrats.

Sununu threatened to veto that map, citing concerns about making the districts less competitive. Chris Pappas, a Democrat, is in his second term representing the 1st District, a seat that previously flip-flopped for years between the two parties.

Under Berry’s plan, Pappas, who is from Manchester, and Kuster would both reside in the 1st District. There is no requirement that candidates live in the congressional districts they represent, though running from outside of the district poses a political liability.

In 2018, Levi Sanders, son of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, ran in a crowded Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District in New Hampshire, despite living on the other side of the state. He finished a distant sixth.

While Sununu offered up his own congressional map earlier this month, that plan appears to have failed to gain any traction with GOP lawmakers. Instead, Berry is promoting a third plan, which seeks to equally divide the state by population, while keeping “major economic communities together.”

According to Berry’s analysis, his proposal makes the 1st Congressional District more Republican-leaning than the current map, though it doesn’t go as far as the House’s original proposal. Berry’s map keeps eight of the state’s ten counties intact, as opposed to the current map which splits five counties.

The state Supreme Court has already laid out a timetable for hearing a lawsuit filed by Democrats, including former House Speaker Terie Norelli, that alleges that holding the 2022 election using the current Congressional maps would violate the constitution.

The court named a special master in the case and has scheduled oral arguments for May 4. The court called these “preliminary steps” that “in no way precludes the legislature from enacting a redistricting plan.”

The 10-day filing period for candidates opens June 1.

(Editor's note: this story has been updated)

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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