New York: Redistricting End Is Nigh

Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:01pm

UPDATED 4:25 p.m. |

There’s a growing bipartisan sense in top political circles in New York that the Congressional redistricting map released by a federal judge late last night represents the final lines for the 2012 cycle.

Despite certain Democrats and Republicans pushing furiously for the Legislature to draw a map — one that creates a new majority-minority district in New York City or shores up Rep. Peter King (R) on Long Island or creates better districts for Reps. Kathy Hochul (D) and Chris Gibson (R) upstate — competing agendas make it more likely than not that the judge’s map will the final one.

“At this point, I’d be surprised if something other than this is” the map, said one national Republican familiar with New York redistricting. That’s a sentiment plugged-in Empire State Democrats echoed in interviews with Roll Call.

The map, viewable here (PDF), now goes to a federal three-judge panel for review. That panel will hold a hearing Thursday and decide soon thereafter if those lines will become law. A decision is expected Friday or, at the latest, Monday.

Candidate petitioning — the process by which candidates gather signatures to get on the ballot — is scheduled to begin in seven days, so candidates must know in which district they live by that time.

The judicial panel has the ability to tweak the map, but two attorneys involved with the case said they expect this map to be the final product approved for the 2012 elections.

If the Republican-held state Senate and the Democratic-controlled state Assembly can come up with a Congressional map of their own in the next few days, there is a potential that Members might run under legislatively drawn lines this November. And those lines would be expected to be templated on the judge’s map.

New York politicos said that D.C.-based Democrats have an interest in shoring up some districts outside New York City and are pushing Albany players to come to a deal.

“The national Democrats are pushing the fixes to the swing districts, which are largely outside the city proper,” a New York City Democratic political operative said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has three Empire State candidates in its incumbent protection Frontline program: Reps. Tim Bishop, Bill Owens and Hochul.

But, at long last, a real deadline is upon the deadlocked Legislature and a deal looks less feasible than it did a few days ago. One reason is that the state Republicans don’t have a strong interest in moving forward, GOP operatives said.

“The legislative guys just punked it. They didn’t act on it,” said one upstate Republican operative frustrated with the Republican state Senate. “At the end of the day, they took care of their best interests and didn’t stick their neck out for anyone.”

“They performed to their reputation,” the source added.

Attorneys said the impending judicial decision would mark the end of the Legislature’s window to draw Congressional lines.

“Once the three-judge panel orders a plan into place and petitioning starts, then it’s too late for the Legislature to act,” said Daniel Burstein, an associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, the firm representing the plaintiffs who asked the court to draw a map. “We are at the final point for them to act.”

There may be ways for the Legislature to come up with a map as late as next Tuesday, but after that, it will really be too late.

If, as many expect, these lines remain the same, the losers are clear. Rep. Bob Turner (R), whose district was eliminated in this map, announced today he’ll run for Senate against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Hochul faces running in the most Republican district in the Empire State, one that probably won’t send her back to Congress. And the freshman Gibson would run in a Democratic district that would be winnable for him, but a much tougher-than-expected contest.

Another Member made more vulnerable under these lines is King, who would have to run in a district that would have been won by Barack Obama in 2008.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) would remain vulnerable in her contest against former Rep. Dan Maffei (D) under the map, but she told Roll Call last week that, compared to earlier and more gerrymandered versions of lines, she was pleased with her district under the court’s lines.

Bishop and Owens both would see the political lean of their districts remain virtually the same, but they face tough rematches. Bishop is likely to face 2010 GOP nominee  Randy Altschuler. Owens is likely to face investment banker Matt Doheny (R), also the 2010 GOP nominee.

While freshman GOP Rep. Michael Grimm’s Staten Island-based district grows more Republican under the court’s lines, reported investigations could derail his first re-election bid. Still, Democrats have a lackluster challenger there.

And the New York City lines reportedly help state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D), who is mounting a serious primary challenge to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D).

All this means that, as interesting as the next few days will be for New York politics, Nov. 6 will be the show to watch.