Between the Lines: Map Complete, Time to Sort Out Who’s Running

Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:41pm

The Empire State’s yearlong Congressional redistricting crucible, which caused political headaches from the Adirondacks to Albany to the Big Apple, ended with a one-page letter.

Joshua Pepper, an assistant attorney general for the state, wrote an official note to the federal three-judge panel that had drawn new Congressional lines after the state Legislature had deadlocked on the process. Pepper confirmed that the judge’s map had been ensconced at the state Board of Elections, ready for use in November. And with that, the drama was over.

If the split-control Legislature were to pass a map, it could be used for Congressional elections later this decade. But for 2012, the 19 Democratic and 7 Republican incumbents hoping to come back for the 113th Congress — along with dozens of challengers — finally know precisely what their districts will look like. Those lines were released by the court on Monday afternoon.

And while there was much grousing among Members about the delay, there’s no question in Democratic and Republican strategists’ minds that the length of time it took to finalize a map helped incumbents of both parties, with a particular edge to Republicans this cycle.

“In the long run, because New York is such a Democratic state, the districts drawn by the court will inevitably put all seats in play,” one New York City Democratic insider said. Echoing widespread thinking among New York Democrats, the source added, “In the short run, the complete abdication of redistricting by the Legislature has meant it’s more difficult to recruit top-tier candidates to unseat Republicans” in November. The exceptions are races that have been under way for some time, such as former Rep. Dan Maffei’s (D) effort to take back the seat he lost to Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) in 2010.

Republicans, who have no truly safe seats under the court’s lines, have opportunities this cycle as well, including rematches with candidates from 2010. Businessman Randy Altschuler is the likely GOP nominee running in a rematch with Rep. Tim Bishop (D). And investment banker Matt Doheney is running again against Rep. Bill Owens (D) upstate.

While it’s too early for Roll Call to rate the Empire State races, here’s a list of the newly numbered districts and which Members are running where.

• 1st district: Bishop is likely to again face Altschuler, who lost by 593 votes in 2010. This will be a heated and competitive contest. On Tuesday, Altschuler picked up the backing of the state’s Independence Party, meaning he’ll appear on its ballot line. Bishop had the Independence Party’s backing in 2010, and the shift could be a boost for the Republican in a district where every vote will count.

• 2nd district: Rep. Peter King (R) faces a more Democratic district, but there’s not yet a strong Democratic challenger. Two Democrats are eyeing the race: Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

• 3rd district: Rep. Steve Israel got slightly less Democratic turf in the redraw, but the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee should be safe.

• 4th district: If Republicans can recruit a strong candidate, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) could have a real race.

• 5th district: Rep. Gregory Meeks (D)

• 6th district: The open-seat race in this safe Democratic district appears likely to pit Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman Rory Lancman and New York City Councilwoman Liz Crowley against each other in the primary. Though Crowley is the cousin of Queens Democratic Party boss Rep. Joe Crowley (D), Meng got the party’s backing and has the edge. Still, Democrats in New York see Lancman making it a true contest.

• 7th district: Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D)

• 8th district: Rep. Edolphus Towns (D) faces a real primary challenge from Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D).

• 9th district: Rep. Yvette Clarke (D)

• 10th district: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D)

• 11th district: Rep. Michael Grimm (R) faces a weak Democratic challenger, Mark Murphy, a former aide to the New York City public advocate. The Staten Island-based district is slightly more Republican under the redraw, but Grimm has had a cloud of explosive allegations swirl around him in recent months. Though the freshman Congressman has not been indicted on any charges and denies wrongdoing, reports that Grimm allegedly engaged in illegal acts make this race competitive.

• 12th district: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D)

• 13th district: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) may face a significant challenge from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D).

• 14th district: Rep. Joe Crowley (D)

• 15th district: Rep. José Serrano (D)

• 16th district: Rep. Eliot Engel (D)

• 17th district: Rep. Nita Lowey (D) may face a Republican with the potential to self-fund, but until it’s clear who that candidate is, this district is not competitive.

• 18th district: Freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) will defend her seat against the winner of a crowded Democratic primary. Whoever the nominee is, it’s likely to be a real race, but just how contentious of one remains to be seen.

• 19th district: The district of freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) swung from a slightly Republican one to a slightly Democratic one in the redraw. He appears likely to face attorney Julian Schriebman (D) in November. This one will be a real fight.

• 20th district: Rep. Paul Tonko (D)

• 21st district: Owens faces a tough challenge holding on to this Republican-leaning district. He’ll endure a rematch with Doheney, who won’t have to deal with third-party candidate Doug Hoffman who siphoned votes away from him in 2010.

• 22nd district: GOP freshman Richard Hanna will face former Congressional aide Dan Lamb (D), who announced for Congress earlier this week. But it will take some time to see whether this race will be truly competitive.

• 23rd district: Rep. Tom Reed (R) will face attorney Leslie Danks Burke (D) or hospital administrator Nate Shinagawa (D), but he is expected to be fine.

• 24th district: Democrats have a good shot at picking up Buerkle’s district, which grew slightly more Democratic, with Maffei as their nominee.

• 25th district: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D), 82, will face a significant challenge from Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks (R). Watch this race.

• 26th district: Rep. Brian Higgins (D)

• 27th district: The very makeup of this district, the most Republican in the state, pushes it into the competitive column for special election victor Rep. Kathy Hochul (D). Republicans still need to find a candidate, but Hochul would have to run an extremely excellent campaign and be incredibly lucky to come back to Congress.