Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Redistricting Shades N.Y. Race

Corwin Victory Might Ultimately Squeeze Out an Upstate GOP Freshman

Bill Clark/Roll Call
A spokeswoman for Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle said her boss “would like to do something” to help special election candidate Jane Corwin, if her schedule permits. Only one New York Member has donated to the Republican so far.

Capitol Hill's Republican elite including Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) have been among Jane Corwin's most active supporters in western New York's suddenly competitive 26th district special election.

But the Empire State's own Republican delegation, particularly those upstate freshmen who occupy nearby districts, have done little, if anything, to help their prospective GOP colleague to date. As the May 24 contest draws a flood of money and logistical support from outside groups and Members across the nation, most of New York's GOP Representatives have not sent donations, made phone calls or stumped for Corwin.

There may be a simple reason.

There is widespread fear that a victory by Corwin, a two-term state lawmaker with stronger ties to the state House than the GOP freshmen in the delegation, could shift the balance of power in the looming redistricting process.

New York will lose two Congressional seats in 2012 because of population losses. One of those seats will likely be upstate. And state lawmakers in a divided Legislature will ultimately pick the winners and losers when they redraw the districts in the coming months.

"The bottom line is that every district needs to change," said a New York Republican strategist with strong ties to the delegation and the state Assembly. "But if Corwin wins, and I think she wins, she's not going anywhere. She's got the best seat and she's got the connections into Albany."

Indeed, none of the six New York Republicans serving a first full term has experience as a state legislator. They are a former FBI agent, an ophthalmologist, a nurse, a retired Army colonel, a businessman and a former mayor. A delegation staffer acknowledged privately that redistricting concerns are in the back of everyone's mind.

Publicly, however, they downplay such worries.

"I think the conventional wisdom is that there will be one [seat lost] upstate and one downstate," said Tim Kolpien, spokesman for Rep. Tom Reed, whose 29th district borders what could be Corwin's district to the east. "Having said that, the most important thing is to get another voice on the Republican side of the House in Washington. The problems facing our nation are too great to let anybody's petty political agenda influence that."

Reed was the only one in the delegation to attend a recent New York fundraiser for Corwin featuring Boehner. But Reed did not donate to Corwin, was not among a group of Representatives who recently made calls on her behalf and has no plans to make any appearances with her.

"I know that Tom has been helping the campaign in terms of advice and support," Kolpien said.

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