The two sides eventually settled on a plan that would move 77,000 voters, all within the city of Providence. Big sections of south Providence would go to Cicilline and the more conservative, northwestern part of the city would shift into Langevin's district.

Langevin's camp says the two sides had an agreement that night, with Cicilline's staff later backing out. Cicilline's camp insists there was never an agreement. Whatever the case, Langevin's last-ditch effort to shape the map had failed.

So on the night of December 12, as the redistricting commission gathered in a small hearing room on the third floor of the State House for the unveiling of what had been billed as the final map, Langevin's aides were sure they wouldn't be pleased with the result.

Something akin to "Plan C" — moving Burrillville out of Cicilline's district and handing him south Providence — seemed likely. But when Ryan Taylor, the soft-spoken aide to state consultant Brace, trotted out the green and blue map — "Plan E" — it was apparent that an even bigger change was in the offing, with some 125,000 voters switching districts.

The plan pulled not just Burrillville, but also North Smithfield and Smithfield, out of Cicilline's district. The advantage for the freshman Congressman, here, was obvious — he'd lost those towns in the 2010 general election by 624 votes, 995 votes, and 1357 votes respectively.

The map also shifted Wards 8, 9, 10, and 11 in south Providence to Cicilline, boosting the former mayor's share of the Providence population from about 40 percent to just over 70 percent.

Those southern wards had been key to Cicilline's mayoral victories. And last fall, they delivered sizable margins to independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee, the most progressive figure in the governor's race.

The map did retain one important feature of "Plan C": Cicilline's Republican and potential Democratic challengers would remain in the district. For Wild, this was evidence that the more radical maps that went before the commission were mere "decoys" — creating an artificial controversy around moving Cicilline's rivals out of the district in a bid to make the final plan more palatable.

The Cicilline camp’s rhetoric seems to match up with the “decoy” theory. Nicole Kayner, Cicilline’s campaign spokeswoman, has taken pains to note that the most dramatic maps would have imposed greater change than the one now under consideration. But she declined to comment when asked about Wild’s assertion.

The new plan, however hatched, seems to be hitting its spots. Ray Rickman, a former Democratic state representative who sits on the redistricting commission, has been skeptical — for weeks now — about a major reconfiguration of the map.

But Rickman, who worked for Cicilline's Democratic challenger Gemma in the last election, says he "won't vote no" on "Plan E."

It still divides Providence, which he likes — the city would continue to claim two representatives working on its behalf. It gives a boost to minority voters — of special interest for Rickman, who is black. And it puts the Democratic Party in a strong position to win two seats next fall.

The map is brazen, perhaps, but not beyond the pale. "This is a political contest between two members and one member is besting the other one," Rickman says.

"It's not a sin. It's just bad behavior."

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