Redistricting vote surprises, angers in Manchester
MANCHESTER — The fallout over Wednesday's House redistricting vote continued on Thursday with one Manchester state representative resigning from a House leadership post and another calling on the city to file a lawsuit to overturn the plan.
Republican state Rep. Will Infantine has received heat from his fellow Manchester state representatives — both Republican and Democrat — for breaking with the delegation's agreed position against the House redistricting plan.
Infantine, as well as fellow Republican state Reps. Mike Ball, Connie Soucy, Carlos Gonzalez, Kathleen Cusson-Cail, Ross Terrio and Leo Pepino, voted to override Gov. John Lynch's veto, allowing the redistricting plan to move on to the Senate, which approved it Wednesday night.
The Manchester delegation had met numerous times during the redistricting debate to ensure the members would stand together and defeat any plan that put Manchester wards in the same district as other towns.
The recently passed plan put Wards 8 and 9 together with Litchfield.
Infantine said Thursday he has stepped down as vice chairman of the House Labor Committee and from his role as chairman of the Manchester delegation.
The resignation was to show he was not pressured to change his vote by threats from House leadership to strip him of his post.
“The speaker (William O'Brien) and I disagree on a lot of things and if anyone thinks I did this because of my position, the answer is no,” said Infantine.
Infantine said he changed his mind after weeks of research into alternative plans and attempts to work out a compromise with Democrats. By the time the surprise vote was called, Infantine said he determined Manchester would receive better representation with the current plan than if it were left up to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
“The plan stinks, but we couldn't find anything better,” said Infantine. “We should not let the Supreme Court make the decision.”
The change of heart particularly angered Manchester House Republicans who were absent Wednesday and had no idea the vote was coming.
“Obviously, the Speaker and his team saw that there were several of us missing and thought it the best opportunity to bring up the override,” said State Rep. Cam DeJong. “I did think though that the entire Manchester delegation was united to sustain the veto and would like to hear explanations given by the others who changed their minds and voted to override the veto.”
Ward 10 Alderman and state Rep. Phil Greazzo also accused House leadership of taking advantage of the Manchester absences on Wednesday.
Both DeJong and Greazzo were out of state on vacation.
Republican State Rep. Win Hutchinson, who voted down the override, isn't buying the argument that a Supreme Court decision would be more harmful to Manchester. During the last redistricting process, the plan was first sent back to the House, he said.
“I kind of thought that's what would happen this time,” Hutchinson said. “Do I fault the others for changing their minds? No, that's their prerogative. They voted their conscience, or their party. I'm not sure which.”
Mayor Ted Gatsas also discredited the idea that Manchester is better off with the current plan.
“Twelve years ago, the Supreme Court didn't place Manchester with any other town,” said Gatsas.
Infantine said his vote was also a result of House Democrats refusing to work with Republicans and reach a compromise.
He accused Democrats of attempting to make O'Brien look bad.
Democrats on Thursday criticized O'Brien for rushing the veto override to a House vote, calling it an “unprecedented power grab” in a statement within a fund-raising email.
“Bill O'Brien's actions are a corruption of our constitution and the legislative process,” House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, said in the statement.
Ward 8 Alderman and State Rep. Tom Katsiantonis, who is one of the House members affected by the redistricting plan, said he will ask the aldermen during their meeting Tuesday to support filing a lawsuit to regain the city's representation.
State Reps. Barbara Shaw, Steve Vaillancourt, J. Gail Barry, Maurice Pilotte and Mark Proulx will also be affected by the change.
Open to a lawsuit
Town administrators from other communities that could lose representation under the House redistricting plan, such as Meredith, Litchfield and Pelham, said discussions on the redistricting vote would be scheduled on the next agendas for their respective Boards of Selectmen.
Any decision to take part in a potential lawsuit would come after those discussions.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said he is open to a lawsuit, whether alone or with other communities, but wonders where the money to pay for it will come from.
As far as how this will affect future elections, Shaw, a Democrat, said she is uncertain about the specific changes in representation for her district, but it will not influence her decision to seek reelection.
“I'm definitely going to run. I just don't know for what,” she said.
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