(Updates with Senate passage.)
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New York would have fewer Republican-leaning congressional districts under legislation passed by the state Legislature on Wednesday.
The proposed U.S. House district map would maximize Democratic Party prospects by building in an advantage in as many of 22 of the 26 new districts.
The state’s map-making process has been closely watched because of its potential impact on control of Congress. The speakership of Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democratic Party’s five-seat U.S. House majority, and the ability of President Joe Biden to get his agenda enacted all will be on the line in the November election.
Both parties have been using their statehouse clout to try to create a national advantage. Democrats dominate in New York, with supermajority control of the legislature.
The Assembly passed the bill (S.8172A/A.9039A) on a 103–45 vote, and the state Senate cleared it on a vote of 43–20. The measure now heads to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who has the final say.
“We’re doing the best we can with the limited time frame,” state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D) said during the floor vote. “And we’ve come up with fair maps that the state can be proud of.”
Republicans have vigorously objected to the proposal, accusing Democrats of aggressive gerrymandering.
“I think the proposal is illegal under the state Constitution,” said former U.S. Rep. John Faso (R), who has been Republican leader in the Assembly. “It very clearly violates the prohibition on partisan gerrymandering.”
“This redistricting scheme is one-party tyranny, and is dead wrong,” Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R) said on the Assembly floor.
The state Republican Party is reviewing its legal options, party Chairman Nick Langworthy said.
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Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) said she plans to shift to the revised 23rd District in the Republican-heavy Southern Tier, composed primarily of territory represented by retiring Rep. Tom Reed (R). Members of Congress aren’t required to live in their districts.
Similarly, Rep. Chris Jacobs (R) plans to run in the 24th district, that will run along Lake Ontario from near Niagara Falls all the way east and north to Watertown. No incumbent resides there and Jacobs already represents about 55% of the residents.
A spokesman for Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, the only House Republican who represents part of New York City, said she plans to run for re-election. The Staten-Island based 11th District as proposed absorbs Democratic precincts in Brooklyn, primarily from the heavily Democratic district of Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
The Syracuse-based district of retiring Rep. John Katko (R) would become more strongly Democratic by adding Ithaca.
History’s Against Them
Republicans are in charge of redrawing more congressional districts nationwide than Democrats.
The political calculations in Albany and elsewhere also include the historical pattern of the party in the White House often losing strength in Congress in the midterm election.
In New York, there’s been the additional complication of the state losing a seat as a result of the 2020 Census. Democrats hold 19 of the current 27 districts.
“Republicans have gerrymandered it all to hell over the last couple of cycles,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) said Tuesday on MSNBC’s MTP Daily.
“New York, which has been voting overwhelmingly Democratic in these recent elections, should have representatives in the House that reflect that,” he said. “You can have Democratic improvements in these districts and have fair maps, these things go hand in hand.”
The map would reconfigure three of the four Long Island-based districts to lean Democratic, including those of 1st District Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin and the 3rd District of Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. Both are running for governor.
The reconfigured 3rd District would include part of Westchester County north of New York City.
Maloney’s Hudson Valley-based 18th District would become marginally more Democratic-leaning, though it could be politically competitive in a good Republican year.
“The 2020 Census data made it clear that Democrats were going to pick up seats and Republicans were going to lose seats in New York, which is consistent with the state’s population growth over the past decade,” Kelly Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee said in an email. “This draft map reflects that growth, unlike the Republican maps in states like Texas, Ohio and North Carolina where the growing urban and suburban communities actually lost representation.”
With assistance from Greg Giroux
To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at firstname.lastname@example.org