Court-ordered redistricting maps reshape Congressional race once again

Redrawn Congressional and State Senate maps were finalized by a New York state court on Friday, shaking up the congressional race in the 1st District yet again.

A previous iteration of the maps had been deemed unconstitutional by Justice Patrick McAllister of the New York State Supreme Court in Steuben County. 

Judge McAllister’s decision was upheld on April 27 by the New York State Court of Appeals, which ordered the assistance of a neutral expert in drawing new maps. The court did not order new assembly maps to be drawn since they had not been challenged in the original lawsuit. 

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New York’s 1st Congressional District, which still encompasses the North Fork, is split between the north and south shores in the western half of the county. It continues to favor the Republican party. 

“Testimony by the League of Women Voters Long Island chapter, and others, suggested that splitting Long Island in a way that respects the north shore and south shore communities would be more appropriate. The congressional map now reflects that change,” court-appointed special master Jonathan Cervas wrote in a report. 

State Senate District 1 also continues to encompass the North Fork, although part of the southern border has moved closer to the north shore. 

State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who represents the district, said in an emailed statement the new maps are “exactly what New York State needs; fair and independent drawn districts that were created to best serve community interest, not political ones.” 

He added: “This entire fiasco, including the tens of millions in additional costs for needing two Primary Election dates, could have been avoided if Senate Democrats put the people before their own political self-interests. Now, as the maps are finalized, I look forward to continuing to represent the men and women of the 1st Senate District and ensuring their needs and concerns are addressed in Albany.” 

According to a five-page order explaining “reasoning and rationale” preceding the special master’s report, the new congressional map creates “eight competitive districts in which either party has a reasonable chance to win and three districts in which the Republicans will likely win.” 

The congressional map thrown out on charges of gerrymandering would have favored just four Republican seats. The state could not reuse the maps drawn in 2012 because New York lost a district in the 2020 census.

Judge McAllister wrote in the order that there were “several common misconceptions” that appeared in public comments throughout the process. 

“The court would first like to correct the misconception that the court’s redistricting maps are a Republican gerrymander. All three courts that reviewed this matter came to the same conclusion that the respondents had unconstitutionally produced gerrymandered maps,” he wrote. “However, the result is not that the petitioners/Republicans now get to draw their own gerrymandered maps … The result is simply that petitioners get to have neutral maps drawn by an independent special master as approved by the court.” 

“So, New York ends up with a 21-5 Biden map. Not the worst outcome for Dems. But because five of those seats are single digit Biden seats, anything from 16D-10R to 21D-5R realistic depending on the year,” Dave Wasserman, editor at Cook Political Report, said on Twitter.

In a separate tweet, he wrote: “Consider this: if every state had the same ratio of truly competitive seats as NY’s new map, there would be 84 truly up-for-grabs districts nationally. Instead, we’re on track for just 36.”

The switch has shaken up elections, yet again, for New York congressional candidates. 

The initial maps prompted congressional candidate Jackie Gordon (D-Copiague) to move her race from NY-02 to NY-01 after her home landed in the district. Candidate Nicholas Antonucci (D-Southold) dropped from the race for NY-01 altogether, citing the loss of the area in the district he considered his base.

After this Friday’s ruling, however, Ms. Gordon has switched back to a run for NY-02. Copiague has switched back to its original district under the new congressional map.

“I’ve said throughout this campaign that I intend to represent my home community, and I will run in the district I live in, which is NY-02,” Ms. Gordon said in a statement. “I’m running for Congress because all Long Islanders, from working families to veterans to seniors, deserve a community-oriented leader who will deliver real and meaningful results, and I’m committed to being that leader. I’m excited to continue the fight to represent this great community in Congress.” 

Suffolk County legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) dropped from the race altogether, leaving fellow legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) the leading Democrat in the race for NY-01.

“This was not an easy decision, but I’m confident it’s the right one. Democratic unity is the most important thing we can bring to the fight to flip NY-01 this year, which is why I will support my colleague Bridget Fleming,” she said on Twitter

Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) has the backing of the Republican and Conservative parties to represent NY-01, facing primary opposition from Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) and Cait Corrigan (R-Patchogue). Incumbent Lee Zeldon (R-Shirley) is vacating the seat for a gubernatorial run.

He is a former Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioner and a former trustee in the Village of Amityville. He also served in the U.S. Navy for eight years and was recently named chief of staff for Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCarrick (R-Lindenhurst).

He does not live in NY-01, but has said he’s willing to move there. Congressional candidates are required to live in the state, but not the district, where they are seeking election.

A federal judge ordered New York to postpone its congressional primary from June 28 to August 23 to accommodate the redrawing of district lines.