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Delayed Map Creates Heartburn in New York

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel’s home state of New York still has not finalized its Congressional map for this year’s elections.

The last big redistricting question mark in the country sits right in Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel’s backyard.

But despite his involvement in the process, a map is still unlikely to be enacted before the last possible minute. And that’s giving New Yorkers from Albany to the Big Apple agita.

Power players in New York state remain deadlocked over how new Congressional lines that eliminate two districts will be crafted. Republicans, who control the state Senate, and Democrats, who control the state Assembly, have been unable to hash out an agreement — or even release a draft map.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has threatened to veto any map not drawn by an independent redistricting commission, adding an extra layer of uncertainty to the process.

The clock is ticking. A federal judge last week set the candidate petitioning process to begin March 20. A map must be completed by that date. The primary is scheduled for June 26.

Key players’ self-interest is overriding their desire to complete a Congressional map.

The consensus among both parties’ politicos is that the state Senate, just barely controlled by the GOP, will make any deal on the new map, even one that will be a boon to Democrats, if it means saving their majority in Albany.

“They will do anything necessary to save their districts and their lines in the Senate,” one upstate New York Republican strategist said. “They’ll throw the Congressional Members under the bus if it means protecting themselves.”

A New York City Democratic operative used a different metaphor.

“The GOP in the state Legislature would gladly sacrifice every House seat if it meant being able to hold on to their Senate majority,” the source said. “Forget about not making room in the lifeboat; they’re willing to leave empty seats if it means they can get away from the sinking ship.”

The Democratic Assembly is working with Israel to come up with a map that’s good for the federal delegation, but the body is limited by the other principals in Albany. Democrats hope the new map will shore up their most vulnerable Members: Reps. Tim Bishop, Bill Owens and Kathy Hochul.

Perhaps the most powerful player in the fight is Cuomo, widely believed to be eyeing a White House run in 2016.

“He’s not above making a deal, but it has to be orchestrated in a way that doesn’t get in the way of his ambitions,” the upstate Republican strategist said. But the source added that it was unclear whether the Senate Republicans were capable of crafting a bargain with the governor that safeguarded their majority and his desire for higher office.

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