Proposed state senate lines jumble political calculations

If on March 20, Democratic City Councilmember Lew Fidler winsthe senate seat formerly held by Carl Kruger, who resigned inDecember after pleading guilty to influence peddling, he willlikely find himself fighting to hold a markedly different senateseat come November.

That’s because the new district lines released last week by thestate senate’s Republican majority divide the district into threeparts – putting a portion (including Fidler’s residence) into thedistrict currently represented by Senate Democratic leader JohnSampson, another portion into a majority Orthodox Jewish districtspanning Boro Park and Midwood, with the third part married to thedistrict currently represented by 10-year State Senator MartyGolden.

This, one Democratic source says, could result in Fidlerchallenging Golden, who had his first opposition in 2010 sincewinning the seat in 2002 against the area’s former State Senator,Democrat Vincent Gentile, who now holds Golden’s old City Councilseat.

The districts overlap 25 to 30 percent, said the insider. Idon’t see him running against Sampson or in a primarily Orthodoxdistrict. The only other option is to take on Marty Golden.

But, others say that is unlikely, especially given the fact thatBay Ridge resident Andrew Gounardes has already launched a campaignagainst Golden. Andrew is not doing this on his own, said anotherpundit. The Senate Dems who are supporting Lew are also supportingAndrew.

All this, of course, supposes that the lines as proposed bySenate Republicans remain unchanged. And that, sources say, isunlikely. Governor Andrew Cuomo has already indicated through hisspokesperson that he would veto them because of their partisannature.

In fact, Gentile – who lost his Senate seat to Golden after thedistrict was reshaped by Senate Republicans to Golden’s advantage -said he believes the lines released by the Senate redistrictingcommittee are deliberately extreme, So the governor can keep hispromise and veto them. Then, they can come up with a second set oflines that the governor can sign.

Another Democrat concurred, contending that the eventual linesof the districts will be less controversial, with the one thatcontains the majority of Kruger’s old district (not Golden’s) farmore comfortable for Fidler to run in.

And, Fidler himself, in a written statement, has alreadycommitted to running in the district that contains the largestportion of Kruger’s old district, should he best Republican DavidStorobin (who was exiled in the current redistricting plans to thedistrict now represented by Democrat Diane Savino, whose seat isconsidered secure) in the special election.

Whatever ultimately happens with the lines, said Fidler, Iwill be running for re-election to the state senate this Novemberfrom a district that includes neighborhoods that currently dominatethe 27th Senate District.

And, Golden’s campaign spokesperson says that any speculationabout a November matchup is based on supposition about somethingthat may not come to pass. Any comment on our part would bepremature, Jeffrey Krause remarked. The lines are not finalized.At some point, the legislature will take up the maps that will comeout of the process. I have no idea what those will be. While todayit may look like Mr. Fidler has those choices, we’ll see how theprocess ultimately plays out.

While the lines are supposed to reflect population changes asreported in the most recent Census, Senate districts were drawn,Democrats contend, to help maintain the GOP’s narrow control of thelegislative body. Similarly, Republicans have contended that theDemocrat-led Assembly has crafted district lines that preservetheir advantage.

And, concerns that partisan considerations play a large part increating district lines are the main force behind the push in NewYork State for an independent redistricting commission to developthe lines, something that does not appear to have come to pass thistime around, though sources say the criteria that an independentcommission would apply could still be applied to the creation ofdistricts in New York.

Exhibit A in their argument is the odd shapes of some of thedistricts – Sampson’s includes a small section dangling off one endthat includes Fidler’s home, and Golden’s snakes around from BayRidge through Bensonhurst and Gravesend to Marine Park, GerritsenBeach and, if the new lines hold, Manhattan Beach as well – despitea requirement that election districts be compact andcontiguous.

In the meantime, to contest a controversial new 63rd senate seatupstate, the Senate Democrats have spearheaded a lawsuit againstthe redistricting proposal released by the New York StateLegislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment(LATFOR). In addition, a group of independent voters has broughtsuit in federal court asking that it take over the redistrictingprocess.

Nonetheless, Senate Republicans insist their plan is fair andlogical. We believe our plan is fair, legal and it protectsminority voting interests, Scott Reif, a spokesperson for theSenate GOP and LATFOR, said. This plan is based on populationshifts which occurred over the last 10 years. It is based ondemographics and actions that the task force took to protectminority voting rights.

The state’s redistricting plans must pass muster with thefederal Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act, whichpertains to districts created in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronxand is intended to prevent dilution of minority districts andprotect the voting strength of African-American, Asian-American andLatino voters.

Additional reporting by Michael Pantelidis.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.