It was not long after the release of the draft maps by court appointed special master Jonathan Cervas on Monday that Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced his bid for a newly drawn House district in the Hudson Valley.
The only problem? It’s likely the same district fellow Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones will run this fall as well.
That scene is being played out across the state, as lawmakers hope to not be the odd person out when the music stops on redistricting — and it’s one that could have seismic consequences for New York politics.
Cervas was put in charge by a Steuben County state Supreme Court judge of drawing the new district lines for the U.S. House and state Senate in New York following the Court of Appeals rejecing the maps drawn by state lawmakers as an unconstitutional violation of an amendment approved by voters in 2014. A commission meant to remove the process from the state Legislature failed to reach an agreement earlier this year on the new district lines, throwing the process to the Legislature.
The draft maps released Monday by Cervas show longtime Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko living in the same district as rising Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik. The influential Rep. Jerry Nadler announced his bid to run for re-election to the same district as equally long-tenured Rep. Carolyn Maloney, leading to a blockbuster primary this August.
It’s also led to some recalculations. Republican Marc Molinaro will run for what could be the new 19th congressional district. His Democratic neighbor in Ulster County, Pat Ryan, will run for the 18th district.
The most scathing review of the House districts came from Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, considered a potential speaker-in-waiting. In a statement, Jeffries said the proposed lines water down Black voting power in his borough.
“The Court, shockingly, uses a sledgehammer to break into pieces the majority Black and historic neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, once represented by the legendary Shirley Chisholm,” Jeffries said. “The legacy Chisholm district was created in 1968 pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood at its core. Apparently, the Steuben County Court either doesn’t know this history or doesn’t care, notwithstanding voluminous public testimony.”
The New York Immigration Coalition, too, blasted the maps along similar lines.
“Unfortunately from what we’ve seen, the draft maps released by the court-appointed special master have failed to represent the diversity of New York thus undermining representation for communities of color,” said Murad Awawdeh, the group’s executive director. “These so-called non-partisan draft maps jeopardize districts that have historically given communities of color the opportunity to choose candidates of their choice, making us the real losers in this process.”
But the maps are also a draft from Cervas, and won’t be finalized until May 20. Republicans who had backed a lawsuit to overturn the initial districts approved this year were pleased with the changes. But they also indicated they will seek further alterations.
Former Rep. John Faso, who advised the GOP-allied lawsuit, said in a statement the new maps by Cervas are “certainly better” than the previous lines.
“However, we will be making suggestions to the Court and Special Master for revisions which better reflect long-standing communities of interest around the state,” Faso said. “We believe these proposed revisions, which we will make by Wednesday, will build on and improve the plan put forth today.”
The stakes are high, potentially astronomically so, for both parties given the close divide in the U.S. House of Representatives. A special master drew the districts for the U.S. House in 2012 as well, leading New York to be home to multiple battleground House districts for nearly a decade.
The new round of redistricting has the potential of making New York, a deeply Democratic state, nevertheless a state to watch in the battle for power in Congress.