The maps would have, variously, pushed Cicilline's GOP rivals John J. Loughlin II and Brendan Doherty out of the district, excised possible Democratic challenger Anthony Gemma, and put all of Providence into Cicilline's district.

The "moderate" alternative — Plan C — still made significant changes to Cicilline's district: dropping Burrillville, which he had lost in the 2010 election to Loughlin, picking up large swaths of the south side of Providence, and shifting more conservative wards in Providence's Elmhurst neighborhood into Langevin's district.

Langevin's district director, C. Kenneth Wild, Jr., registered a loud protest at the public meeting. "It would appear that these maps are an attempt to do a heart transplant," he said, "where a package of Rolaids would have taken care of the patient."

The comment irked the General Assembly's leadership, which was exercising significant control over the process. And it was not the first time Congressman Langevin had ruffled feathers.

"He's never had a relationship with anyone in the General Assembly," says one well-placed State House insider, "and has never really tried. He's very aloof. His office is very aloof."

The contrast with Cicilline was stark. He had long courted the State House crowd. Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, the most powerful politician on Smith Hill, was a close ally. And the relationships he had built over time were clearly helping in the redistricting process.

In the meantime, another argument for a major rejiggering of the district lines — neatly aligned with Cicilline's power play — was taking hold.


THE ARGUMENT

At the early meetings of the redistricting commission, a rather predictable pattern had taken hold: an aggrieved state representative or state senator would speak during the public comment period about potential changes to the state legislature's redistricting map or a good-government type would argue for more data or transparency or fairness.

But on the night of December 7, a break in the pattern: four Latino citizens showed up, arguing for a Congressional district that would swallow Providence whole and include other urban sectors of the state, too — delivering concentrated political clout to a long-marginalized community.

Among the speakers: Carlos Tobon, who made an unsuccessful run for state representative in Pawtucket last year, and political activist Laura Rodriguez. Both had served among the co-hosts of Cicilline's "first annual family barbecue," an October fundraiser and show of force that drew almost all of the state's Democratic firmament.

Tobon even attended Cicilline's swearing-in ceremony in Washington, according to a story in Providence En Español.

Cicilline's camp scoffs at any suggestion that he urged the speakers to turn out at the meeting. But one thing was clear: the interests of Rhode Island's minority voters, at least as defined by the four men and women who testified that night, were matching up with those of the First District Congressman.

By this point, Langevin's district director Wild had drawn up a map of his own, a modest shifting of 7200 voters in Providence's Mount Pleasant neighborhood. But it was going nowhere.

So on December 9, he and Langevin aide Seth Klaiman sat with the state's redistricting consultant, Kimball Brace, in his office in the basement of the State House — Cicilline's campaign staff on speaker phone — in a bid to hash out a last-minute compromise.

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