Massachusetts 3rd District
Worcester is still pronounced with a particularly pungent Massachusetts accent making it sound as though it had no r’s. For more than 200 years, it has been one of the nation’s centers of tinkering, contriving, and inventing, even though it is one of the few active industrial cities not located on a river, lake, or seacoast. In the mid-19th century, the city won renown as the valentine-making capital of the United States for its production of lavish valentines and other greeting cards. Fifty years ago, Worcester’s biggest industries were wire-making, textiles, grinding wheels, and envelopes. It is where the birth control pill was invented and where Worcester native and Clark University professor Robert Goddard shot off experimental rockets before relieved locals saw him off to New Mexico.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1970s and 1980s, electronics and computer firms sprouted along Interstate 495—the circumferential highway 20 miles east of Worcester—just as they had earlier around Route 128, closer to Boston. The high-tech boom brought prosperity, labor shortages, new residents, and higher housing prices to central Massachusetts. Then, in the early 1990s, the minicomputer industry slumped, bringing a recession. But Worcester’s ingenious entrepreneurs and skilled labor force hustled, and local leaders set up a Biotechnology Research Institute to draw on the city’s nine colleges and the University of Massachusetts Medical School to steer the city back on course. Holy Cross College offered free tuition to students of local families earning less than $50,000 annually. Just as the city’s economy has changed, so has its face, with a 78% increase in Asians, 55% increase in blacks, and a 61% increase in Hispanics, mainly from Puerto Rico, in the 1990s. Overall, population declined 20% between 1950 and 1980 but increased 7% from 1980 to 2000 and an additional 5% since then, as the area attracted Hmong, Albanians, and Africans, many thousands of whom had fled the civil war in Liberia. The local cable television station airs Latino programming. That rebound contrasts with nearby Springfield and Hartford, and enabled Worcester to pass Providence as New England’s second-largest city, behind Boston. Since 2000, Worcester County has led the state in growth.
The 3rd Congressional District of Massachusetts has Worcester as its largest city but not its geographic center. A little more than half of its residents live in Worcester and a cluster of adjacent towns. The other population cluster is 60 miles away, in and around the old textile mill town of Fall River, east of Rhode Island. The two are connected by a string of towns that reaches almost to Buzzards Bay. In national elections since 1992, this district has been solidly Democratic. In recent gubernatorial elections, however, the 3rd has been mixed. Worcester and Fall River (only a portion of which is in the district) voted by significant margins for Democrat Shannon O’Brien in 2002. But the Interstate 495 corridor and the towns northeast of Rhode Island gave even larger margins to Republican Mitt Romney. In 2006, Democrat Deval Patrick won by almost 3-1 ratios in Worcester and Fall River and lost only a handful of towns here.