A new bipartisan commission is drawing district lines, but New York Democratic leaders are laying the groundwork for handling the redistribution process.
Seven years ago, New Yorkers voted decisively to empower a new bipartisan commission that self-interested politicians could not: draw new congressional district lines that did not favor any particular party.
But as the panel prepares to unveil its proposed maps for the first time on Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers in New York and Washington are already laying the groundwork to put them aside — drawing new district boundaries for the next decade. are plotting to use their supermajority in Albany for Which could eliminate the five seats held by Republicans.
The end result could drive one of the most consequential changes in power in the country in this redistribution cycle, after New York voters approved a 2014 ballot measure to curb gerrymandering.
Under the most aggressive scenarios, Democrats could emerge from the 2022 midterm elections controlling 23 of New York’s 26 House seats in an effort to increase their chances of retaining control of Congress. For the first redistribution cycle in decades, Democrats control the Legislature and the office of governor, giving them the freedom to reshape districts without compromising with Republicans, who have long held the state Senate in lock down.
“New York could be the biggest redistribution weapon for any party in the country,” said Dave Wasserman, national election analyst for the Cook Political Report.
Running it would almost certainly raise the voice of opposition from Republicans and expose Democrats to legal challenges and political accusations that they are hypocritically turning back on promises to end the party, a practice that would encourage politicians to hold their own party. Allows to draw the legislative line in favor of
Just on Monday, senior state senator and Democratic majority leader in Washington, Chuck Schumer, sought to rally senators on Capitol Hill in favor of a sweeping national election bill that would replace New York and state laws like illegal “vicious gerrymandering.” Will override that, which further threatens to divide our politics.”
Yet as Republicans prepare to use their control of states like Texas, Florida and Georgia to pile up a dozen or more new red seats, Democrats are intent on using New York’s laws to their advantage. Mr Wasserman said New York’s gains were likely to be greater than others whose processes were under single-party control, such as Texas, because those states are already more thoroughly gerrymandered.
Top officials in Albany have indicated privately to Democrats in a congressional delegation that they intend to consult with them on how to draw up the map, according to two Democrats directly familiar with the matter who sought to expand private talks. Anonymity was requested for. Although the constitution gives the commission the first shot at creating a map, lawmakers in Albany have wide leeway to disregard the panel’s work and create their own.
He is expected to pay special respects to Representative Prince Jeffries, the top-ranked New Yorker in the House, and Sean Patrick Maloney, who is leading Democratic efforts nationally to maintain control of the House.
Targets include Republican districts that extend from the eastern tip of Long Island, through Staten Island, and into the remote rural areas of northern and western New York, where the 2020 Census reported a population decline that would allow New York to reach a milestone next year. Congress will lose the district. .
Democratic members of the state’s delegation in Washington held a virtual meeting Friday to begin discussions on the process, a complex balancing act of narrow concerns, legal mandates and political interests. Most declined to comment for this article, as did their Republican counterparts.
Senate Democratic majority spokesman Mike Murphy denied Washington would play a role. “Anyone suggesting otherwise gives false information,” he said. “at best.”
Still, the Democrats in Albany are well aware of the intricacies of the task before them. Cathy Hochul, a former member of the House who lost her seat after the last redistribution cycle, has indicated she doesn’t mind using the party’s influence in New York to expand Democratic power in Washington.
State Senator Michael Giannaris, a Queens Democrat who co-leads the York State Legislative Task Force on Redistribution and Redistribution, said, “It is impossible not to take cognizance of the national implications of what we do.” fails to reach an agreement that the legislature can accept.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” he said. “Is the commission going to agree on the map as well or is it breaking along partisan lines? How well do they work?”
The ambiguity surrounding redistribution is hardly new. Voters set up independent commissions after the previous redistribution cycle was so badly derailed that the courts themselves had to step in to draw Congress’ maps. To break the related deadlock with Republicans, then controlling the Senate, Gov. Cuomo struck a deal to create a bipartisan panel by constitutional amendment.
However, the commission had started criticizing even before it started its work. Advocates of good governance denounced the panel, which requires a large number of members to pass anything, designed to be ineffective and unsuccessful. A state judge ruled in 2014 that supporters should not even refer to the panel as “independent”, as the legislature and governor must approve its work.
Now, Democrats essentially have carte blanche to draw the lines as long as they can hold their members together.
“There is the official process and then there is the actual process. “That’s always been the case,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the York Public Interest Research Group. “We’re in the kabuki part of redistribution.”
Democratic Party leaders will have to decide in the coming months how to proceed aggressively for Republican seats.
For example, on Long Island, Democrats can shuffle the lines to create three blue seats where there are currently two and limit Republicans to a single suburban district anchored on the South Shore.
Democrats are likely to anchor the only Republican-leaning seat in New York City, the 11th district, Staten Island, and parts of Brooklyn. Representative Nicole Mallotakis, a first-time member of Congress, now holds the seat, but adding more liberal sections of Brooklyn or even Lower Manhattan could make it untenable for Republicans.
The most significant gains may come upstream, the area most likely to lose a district altogether. Mr Wasserman suggested that map makers could try to pool voters into two conservative mega-districts. At the same time, the party may edge out two of its incumbents in the Hudson Valley swing seats, Mr Maloney and Representative Antonio Delgado.
A red seat could be created in western New York by retiring Republican Tom Reid by combining the vast Southern Tier district with the area between Buffalo and Rochester, represented by Chris Jacobs, who is also a Republican. Another can be rooted in the Adirondacks, the regions of central and northern New York represented by Republicans Claudia Tenney and Alice Stefnik, a rising star who is now her party’s top-ranking woman in Washington.
It would be less straightforward to target the other remaining Republican in the area, John Katko. One of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the House, former President Donald J. Trump has voted to impeach, something Mr Katko has repeatedly won despite Democratic gains in his Syracuse-based district.
The commission will also propose new lines for the state legislature and Senate, but lawmakers in Albany can simply toss them to produce a more favorable outcome for the Democrats who lock in their dominance for years to come. Democratic senators, in particular, are eyeing changes in the districts they say Republicans controlled the last cycle when they still controlled the chamber.
Republican leader, State Senator Robert G. Ort said he was worried that Democrats would undermine the electorate process before it even begins. He suggested that the Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had few other options to stay in power: “They know that the only way she remains a speaker is if they do this type of gerrymandering,” he said.
But the cold political mathematics of redistribution means that even safe democratic districts can see change.
Preparing for her third consecutive primary challenge from the left, Representative Carolyn Maloney, the Democratic chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, is trying to oust thousands of progressive voters in her district. Her proposal: Landing potential parts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home of young and Latino voters, and Astoria, Queens, while retaining her political base on Manhattan’s wealthy East Side.
Ms Maloney, 75, has reason for optimism – at least when it comes time to settle on the lines. In addition to being a committee leader in Washington and one of the longest-serving New Yorkers in Congress, she was once Ms. Hochul’s landowner in Washington, who would have to sign the final maps.
For now, representatives of the House Democratic campaign branch in Washington have discouraged members from hiring lobbying firms, as they have in previous cycles, or making direct requests to the Commission or their counterparts in the Assembly. He has said that the work of the commission should first do its work.
“It’s the Republicans who want to stack the decks, but you give me the fair line, and we’re going to do fine,” said Mr Maloney, the Democratic campaign chief. “I’m very confident that we’ve found good, good partners in Albany.”
Katie Gluck Contributed reporting.