New York House map spurs anger, chaos
A new set of U.S. House district lines finalized Friday has set off a mad scramble among some of the most powerful politicians in New York, where decades of simmering feuds and rivalries are emerging ahead of a high-stakes August primary.
The new maps will force several unprecedented high-stakes match-ups between prominent Democratic power players after a state Supreme Court judge in a Republican stronghold struck down maps passed by New York’s Democratic-controlled legislature in Albany and appointed a special master to draw new ones.
Chief among those contests is the battle between Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D) and Carolyn Maloney (D), two members first elected in 1992 who chair full committees in Washington. The special master’s maps merged the cores of their districts along the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, for decades divided by Central Park. Both said they would run in the newly drawn 12th Congressional District.
The showdown between such senior members is made all the more complicated by Suraj Patel (D), a former Obama administration aide running as a progressive who came within 3,300 votes of upsetting Maloney in the 2020 primary. Rana Abdelhamid (D), an activist backed by Justice Democrats, is also running for the seat.
“When it comes to Manhattan politics, it’s the clash of the titans,” said Evan Stavisky, a Democratic strategist who is unaligned in the race. Political organizations nurtured by Nadler and Maloney have borne a generation of New York City leaders. “Those organizations are now at war with each other.”
New lines drawn in the Hudson Valley also caused angst when Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D), who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced he would run in a district that included less than half of his current constituents.
Maloney lives in the new district, but his decision seemed designed to preempt Rep. Mondaire Jones (D), a first-term congressman who would have been forced to choose between running against either Maloney or fellow first-term progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D).
On Friday, Jones stunned New York political observers by skipping over several options to run instead for the remnants of Nadler’s old district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. That move will pit Jones, who is Black, against former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D), who is Taiwanese, and New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D), who is Latino.
“The biggest spotlight is on New York 10, where we have a district with no incumbent,” said Émilia Decaudin, a member of the New York State Democratic Committee who has kept close tabs on the new district lines. “That is an incredibly diverse set of communities.”
Sean Patrick Maloney’s move angered many Democrats in New York political circles. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D) said she would challenge Maloney; Bowman, who ousted then-Rep. Eliot Engel (D) in the 2020 primary, said he would support Biaggi over Maloney. In an interview with The New York Times, Bowman called Maloney’s move “completely unacceptable for a leader of our party whose job it is to make sure that we maintain the majority.”
New York’s congressional delegation was already set for an unusual amount of upheaval this year. Four current representatives are retiring or running for other office, and two others have resigned or will resign: Rep. Tom Reed (R) quit to take a job on K Street, while Rep. Antonio Delgado (D) is resigning effective Wednesday to become New York’s lieutenant governor.
Voters in three Long Island districts will elect new members after Reps. Lee Zeldin (R) and Tom Suozzi (D) launched bids for governor and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D) said she would retire.
Upstate, Rep. Chris Jacobs (R) will run for a district once held by Reed. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) will run for a district currently held by Rep. John Katko (R), who is retiring.
The map lines represent a stark departure from redistricting trends in most other states, where Democrats and Republicans controlling the process worked to limit or eliminate competitive districts. The new maps in New York create at least eight districts in which either party could win, under the right circumstances.
“In the way that California kind of became the House battleground of 2018 and Texas was the House battleground of 2020, we’re looking at a decade in which New York, year after year, will be the center of the universe,” said Isaac Goldberg, a New York Democratic strategist. “Every other state went out of their way to remove these districts. New York is now the center of them.”
A decade ago, Democratic hopes of drawing an aggressive map were stymied when the legislature failed to reach agreement on new boundary lines. This time, with Democrats in total control of the process, the legislature passed a map that would have given them a strong chance of controlling 20 of 26 seats.
But Republicans challenged those maps in conservative Steuben County, where state Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ruled the lines unconstitutional. McAllister tapped Jonathan Cervas, a Carnegie Mellon political scientist, as a special master tasked with redrawing lines.
The results upended many New York City districts, connecting the Upper East Side with the Upper West Side across Central Park, splitting Orthodox Jewish communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn and mixing other demographic groups in a city where ethnic politics remains crucial.
“You have to really miss the point of ethnic politics to think that the Chinese community is the same as the Pakistani community or the Pakistani community is the same as the Indian community or the Bangladeshi community,” Stavisky, the Democratic strategist, said. “When you’re talking about primaries in New York, what people sort themselves by is either ideology or demography. You underestimate ethnic politics in New York at your own peril.”
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