Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Stefanik would regain Moreau if new district map is okayed

By Maury Thompson, Special to The Chronicle

The Saratoga County towns of Moreau, Hadley, Day and Edinburg, now represented by U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, would be moved into the 21st Congressional District, represented by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, under a new proposed congressional redistricting plan.

The “compromise” plan, which the state Independent Redistricting Commission approved by a 9-1 vote on Feb. 15, retains all of Warren and Washington counties in the 21st District.

Local Democratic and Republican leaders agree that, at first glance, the proposed new 21st District has a greater Republican enrollment advantage than at present.

“She (Rep. Stefanik) seems to have gotten a redder district, honestly,” said Warren County Democratic Chairwoman Lynne Boecher, in a telephone interview on Friday.

Warren County Republican Chairman Tim McNulty, in a telephone interview on Saturday, said it appears Republican areas were added to the district, generally considered a safe seat, in order to add Democratic areas in toss-up districts.

Statewide, Democratic incumbents made “modest gains” in two upstate swing districts and a Republican incumbent in one district, according to Politico, a national political news website.

The New York Times called the plan “a redistricting surprise,” in proposing minimal tweaks to most districts rather than the wholesale changes many had envisioned.

The next step in the redistricting process is for the state Legislature to vote on whether to accept the bipartisan commission’s proposal.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the proposal on Feb. 26, when it returns from its Presidents’ Day week vacation, said Assemblyman Matt Simpson.

Assemblyman Simpson and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, both said Friday that they were still reviewing the proposal, and had not decided how they will vote.

Rep. Tonko said he looks forward to running for election in the 20th District, if the Legislature adopts the maps.

“While the process is not yet complete, I appreciate that the commission listened to the hundreds of comments from across the Capital Region, urging them to keep the urban cores of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga (Springs), and Amsterdam in a common district, as has been the case for many decades,” Rep. Tonko said in a statement.

Rep. Stefanik did not return two requests to comment for this report.

If the Legislature approves the plan, it will be used through the 2030 election, unless successfully challenged in court.

If the Legislature rejects the plan, the Independent Commission must propose a second plan.

If the Legislature rejects the second plan, then the Legislature would draw its own plan.

Mr. McNulty, the Warren County Republican chair, said he recommends that local legislators vote for the plan. “The tweaks that they have made to revamp the plan seem to be balanced,” he said.

Mrs. Boecher, the Warren County Democratic chair, said she agrees with state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who urged legislators to “carefully review these maps, especially in light of serious concerns being raised by the communities of interest.”

Mrs. Boecher said she is more concerned with the timing of releasing the plan, just days before the Feb. 27 start of circulating party nominating petitions to get on the ballot for the 2024 election.

“The timing and the vastness — it’s baffling,” she said.

Congressional and state legislative district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years, based on the latest census.

New York state law stipulates that the state Independent Restricting Committee draw the maps, subject to approval of the Legislation.

In 2022, Democrats and Republicans on the commission could not agree on a single set of maps, and submitted separate maps to the Legislature, one drawn by Democrats and one by Republicans.

The Legislature rejected the maps, and when the commission resubmitted the same two sets, the Legislature adopted its own set of maps in February 2022.

A state Supreme Court judge in March 2022 threw out the Legislature’s plan, saying the maps were unfairly drawn to advantage the Democratic Party.

The judge appointed a private redistricting expert to draw the maps that were used in the 2022 elections.

In 2023 Democrats successfully sued to start the redistricting process over, saying the private expert’s maps were intended only for use in the 2022 election.

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