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Can NY Redraw Its Congressional Map Fast Enough To Counter North Carolina's Coming Gerrymander?

With North Carolina’s new right-wing Supreme Court signaling they’re on board, the Republican-controlled state legislature is about to redraw the congressional maps to eliminate districts that will reelect Democrats Wiley Nickel, Jeffrey Jackson, Kathy Manning and perhaps Don Davis. New York may be able to counter that with their own new congressional map.

Yesterday, a NY appeals court sided with the Democratic lawsuit against the Republican-drawn map used in 2022. Nick Fandos reported that the court “ordered that state’s bipartisan redistricting commission to promptly restart a process that would effectively give the Democrat-dominated State Legislature final say over the contours of New York’s 26 House seats for the remainder of the decade… Two members of the five-judge panel dissented. Republicans vowed to appeal, leaving a final decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, just a year after it stopped an earlier attempt by Democrats to gerrymander the maps… The seven-judge court was skeptical of Democrats a year ago, and could view the current lawsuit as an attack on its earlier ruling. But the bench has also moved decidedly leftward since then, and it is now led by a liberal chief judge, Rowan Wilson, who dissented from the 2022 decision.”

The Republican judge who oversaw the 2022 process helped the GOP “flip four seats en route to taking control of the House. If Thursday’s ruling stands, both parties believe Democrats could conceivably draw maps that pass legal muster while making re-election almost impossible for incumbent Republicans like Representatives Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro in the Hudson Valley, and Anthony D’Esposito and George Santos on Long Island and in Queens, among others.”

My guess is that the Republican incumbents most at jeopardy are Brandon Williams (NY-22), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Marc Molinaro (NY-19) and possibly Nick LaLota (NY-01). Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04) and George Santos (NY-03) are likely to lose their seats without any gerrymandering. These are the PVIs of these districts currently:

  • NY-22— D+1

  • NY-17— D+3

  • NY-19— even

  • NY-01— R+3

  • NY-03— D+2

  • NY-04— D+5

On Wednesday, Mia Prater reported that “the trickiest part likely still lies ahead. In order for a new map to be used in time for the 2024 election, the commission will have to hold 12 public hearings across the state as required by law and come together to agree upon a map all before ballot petitioning begins on March 1. (Candidates are required to obtain voter signatures to get onto the ballot, a task that’s hard to do if you don’t know what district you’re running in.) Though the commission did manage to come together this year to approve new maps for the state assembly following a court challenge, Wice notes that coming to an agreement on a congressional map could end up being a more difficult task. ‘The Republican members of the commission are already on record as opposing the congressional redistricting being revisited. So they might not play ball with the Democrats as they did with the assembly remapping,’ he said. If the commission is able to settle upon a final map, then the legislature will have to vote on the new lines. But lawmakers won’t be able to make their own amendments to the map. They’d have to send it back to the commission and start it all over again, something that would further prolong the process. ‘That could take two, three days; it could take a month. These are things beyond our knowing right now,’ Wice said. ‘But the clock is ticking. That’s very clear.’”

I want to look at one district, the Syracuse-area seat held by conservative Republican freshman Brandon Williams. In 2020, Biden beat Trump within those boundaries 52.7% to 45.2%. Two years later, the Democratic establishment got behind a worthless corporate, GOP-lite nominee, Francis Conole. He barely won the Democratic county, Onondaga (by 12 points) and badly lost the other 3 counties, Oneida (by 25 points), Madison (by 17 points) and Oswego (by 59 points). In the end Williams beat him 135,544 (50.49%) to 132,913 (49.51%). The PVI had changed from D+3 to D+1 but it was the candidate quality that lost that seat for the Democrats, not the gerrymandering. All 4 counties moved in a Republican direction.

There are 3 declared candidates in the Democratic primary, progressive Sarah Klee Hood, conservative John Mannion and a guy named Clemmie Harris who teaches Africana Studies at Utica University and has no issues page on his official website. Mannion, who jumped into the race yesterday, is considered one of the worst and most anti-progressive Democrats in the state Senate. He won reelection last year by just 10 votes after several recounts, primarily because Democrats just didn’t want to vote for a Republican with a “D” next to his name. If you think Congress needs more members like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and Henry Cuellar, Mannion is your man.

If the DCCC gets behind Mannion, which is the kind of thing they would probably love to do, Williams will be reelected for the same reason he won in 2022— given a choice between a Republican-lite candidate and an actual Republican candidate, voters almost invariably pick the actual Republican. It amazes me that the DC Democratic establishment just can’t figure that out no matter how often their collective snouts get rubbed in that reality.

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