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Castleberry Fairs

Burton's North Country Council district jeopardized by Senate plan



April 12, 2012
By Jeff Woodburn

jwoodburn@salmonpress.com

CONCORD – A new redistricting plan splits the rural North Country amongst two Executive Council districts and greatly dilutes the region's political power. The plan, which passed an important New Hampshire Senate committee, carved up Executive Council district 1 by removing much of southern and central Grafton and all of Sullivan County and added much of heavily populated Strafford County (all the way to the city of Dover). District 1 would retain all of Coos, Carroll and Belknap counties.

The plan didn't sit well with Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who is the state's most senior elected official having represented the northern-most district since 1977. "The three northern counties kind of go together socially, economically and politically," Burton said, "The North Country is different," from other parts of the state.

This plan would give Strafford County – Dover, Rochester and Somersworth area – nearly one-half of the district's population. Some pundits speculated that the change was aimed to punish Burton who is one of the state's last remaining liberal Republicans who were once dominant in the 1960s and 1970s, while another view is that the Senate was only trying to help District 2 Executive Councilor Dan St. Hilaire, of Concord, who is in a tough re-election campaign, and felt that Burton is strong enough to win whatever the changes to his district.

"It's beyond me," said Burton, who turns 73 in August, "this district is better served by" the current arrangement. The district's changes last for a decade. For 35 years, Burton has seen his district stretch further south as the North Country's population becomes a smaller share of the state's population. Never has this district ever taken on a new shape and demographic profile and such a large population shift.

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