New York: Control of Redistricting Process Is Still in Doubt

Posted December 10, 2008 at 6:06pm

Control of the state Senate — and with it, likely control of the Congressional redistricting process after the 2010 Census — remains in doubt.

Democratic candidates won a majority of state Senate seats — 32 of 62 — on Election Day for the first time since the 1960s. They already control the state Assembly by a wide margin and hold the governorship.

But immediately after the election, two dissident Democratic Senators and an incoming Democratic Senator said they would not vote to make the current Senate Democratic leader, Malcolm Smith, as Majority Leader.

Several weeks of intense negotiations followed, and late last week it appeared as if Smith and the dissidents had struck a deal to put Democrats in charge of the chamber. But on Wednesday, Smith said he was “suspending negotiations” with the “Gang of Three.”

“Anything in the past that we discussed is no longer on the table,” Smith told the Albany Times-Union. “I am not at a place where — originally I thought this discussion was about reform and had some principles behind it. Over time, it was not where it seems to be headed and so therefore I’m suspending negotiations effective immediately. I do not want to reduce our moral standing and long-term Senate Democratic commitment to reform and change.”

Smith said he would rather stay in the minority than make further compromises with the three dissidents. But he also predicted that when the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 7, the Democrats will have a working majority.

For the past several decades, state government in New York has been divided during the redistricting process. But Democrats, who will enter the 111th Congress with a 26-3 advantage in the Empire State delegation, have been licking their chops at the prospect of fully controlling redistricting.

The state is expected to lose one House seat, and maybe two, beginning with the 2012 elections.

King for a Day: Island Member Eyes Senate

Rep. Peter King (R) told the Associated Press this week that he is thinking of running for the Senate in 2010.

King, who frequently volunteers his name as a candidate for statewide office, said he is “seriously” taking a look at the seat that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will vacate if she is confirmed as secretary of State.

The Empire State political community is already abuzz with gossip over which Democrat Gov. David Paterson (D) would name to Clinton’s seat if there is a vacancy. The appointee would go before the voters in 2010, and an election for a full six-year term would take place in 2012.

While a dozen names of potential Democratic appointees have bandied about, King is the first Republican to talk openly of running for the seat in two years. Even some Democratic strategists concede that if Paterson chooses a Senator from upstate, King could make inroads for the GOP on his Long Island home turf.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is also mentioned as a possible Senate candidate — though he, like King, is also touted as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

In a related development, the Buffalo News in its Wednesday edition endorsed state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) for the Senate appointment, bypassing two local pols who have also been mentioned in connection with the Senate vacancy: Rep. Brian Higgins (D) and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D).

“The Western New York heart may say Brian Higgins,” the editorial began. “But the head says Andrew M. Cuomo.”

The paper went on to essentially cast Cuomo as a better choice than the other high-profile name mentioned for the Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy.

“Like his father before him [former Gov. Mario Cuomo], Cuomo has always paid attention to this end of the state. … He also has served in Washington, as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and has won a statewide election. His experience and skills would make him a formidable advocate for New York — all of New York — in the Senate,” the paper wrote.